Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 29, 2015

Contacts:  Jay Lininger, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 853-9929,
Todd Tucci, Advocates for the West, (208) 342-7024,

Court Rules Grazing Harms Endangered Species in Arizona's Fossil Creek

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— A federal court has ruled that cattle grazing in the Fossil Creek watershed of central Arizona harms critical habitat of threatened frogs, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2010. 

“Fossil Creek is one of the Southwest’s most biologically precious river reaches,” said Jay Lininger, a senior scientist with the Center. “The ruling is a victory for this beautiful creek, native wildlife and public investments made to recover them.”

Grazing in stream corridors harms critical habitat of threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs by impeding their movement among breeding sites, according to the court’s opinion released late Friday. Livestock “spend a disproportionate amount of their time in riparian zones,” and grazing can eliminate vegetation cover as well as spread disease, according to the ruling.

“The ruling is significant because it will help protect the last known population of Chiricahua leopard frogs on the Red Rock Ranger District,” said Todd Tucci, a senior attorney at Advocates for the West who argued the case on behalf of the Center.

“Fossil Creek and its native wildlife need better protection from heavily subsidized cattle grazing that clearly damages this special place,” said Lininger. “We’re glad the court is demanding a course correction.”

Download a copy of the ruling.

Listed as a “threatened” species in 2002 under the federal Endangered Species Act, the Chiricahua leopard frog needs a permanent source of water to reproduce, making Fossil Creek, one of Arizona's rare perennial streams, and its 149 miles of tributary streams in surrounding uplands ideal habitat in this central Arizona desert landscape.

The frogs were once found in more than 400 sites in the Southwest, but livestock grazing, water diversions and dams have destroyed more than 80 percent of known habitat throughout their range, which reaches to Mexico. 

Fossil Creek flows from Fossil Springs in the central Mogollon Rim country southwest to the Verde River. Its watershed is habitat for numerous threatened, endangered and candidate species including the desert nesting bald eagle, desert pupfish, razorback sucker, southwestern willow flycatcherheadwater chub, roundtail chub, desert sucker and Mexican spotted owl. It is also rich in unique biological resources, including cultural sites, wilderness areas, colorful wildflowers, abundant riparian vegetation and crystal-clear spring waters.

The Center has also worked to protect the habitat of the loach minnow and spikedace, two endangered fishes that had vanished from Fossil Creek, and in 2007 our efforts resulted in the momentous reintroduction of those species to the watershed.

Read more about the Center’s work to reform livestock grazing on public lands.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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