Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release August 26, 2003

Citizens Appeal to Governor: Save the San Pedro River
“ Please help stop Rep. Renzi’s San Pedro River-killing Rider,” Sen. McCain also key

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, 520.623.5252 x 306; Robin Silver, 602.246.4170
More Information: San Pedro River Web, Copy of the letter

PHOENIX -- Twenty-four Arizona conservation and advocacy groups are appealing to Governor Janet Napolitano to help save the San Pedro River from a destructive rider attached to a defense bill by Rep. Renzi.

The San Pedro River is the last naturally functioning desert river ecosystem in the southwestern United States. It is home to over 400 bird species and a major tourist destination. Located in Southeast Arizona’s Cochise County, it flows north from Mexico, past Sierra Vista and merges with the Gila River near Winkleman. It has been going dry in areas due to excessive deficit groundwater pumping. Groundwater pumping is one of the leading causes of the loss of Arizona’s rivers and streams. Now the San Pedro River is under further threat by a congressional rider attached to the FY2004 Defense Authorization Bill. The “Renzi Rider” would exempt Fort Huachuca from responsibility for groundwater pumping that it sustains off-post, even though most water consumption in the area would not occur except for the Fort’s existence and related military spending.

“The rider has nothing to do with national security or military readiness, but it will end citizens’ ability to defend the survival of the San Pedro River,” said Daniel R. Patterson, CBD desert ecologist.

The defense bill is now before the combined House/Senate Armed Service Committee Conference. Whether or not the rider remains on the bill will be decided when the committee reconvenes in September. The Governor has not yet weighed-in on the legislation that would heavily impact the San Pedro River and its dependent plant and animal species. Citizens want the Governor to call on Sen. McCain to save the river.

The rider cannot survive without the blessing of Senator McCain. Senate members of the conference are deferring to Senator McCain. He remains “undecided” and is considering support for an alternative revision of the Rider requested by the Army. The Army’s revision seeks to exempt all local Department of Defense activities from the current Endangered Species Act requirement to include consideration of the deteriorating environmental baseline from the evaluation of any future Department of Defense analysis.

“The Renzi/Army approach is the equivalent of a doctor not taking a patient’s condition into consideration before performing surgery,” says Robin Silver, medical doctor and CBD conservation chair.

Recent news reports show the Fort hopes to expand by adding possibly 10,000 employees (AZ Daily Star, Base savers pitching state, Aug. 20). The proposed exemptions would allow the Fort to grow in the future without taking adequate responsibility for the impacts to the river. They would also undermine a consensus agreement between the Fort and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Agreement is the August 23, 2002, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion concerning impacts that may result from activities authorized, carried out, or funded by the Department of the Army at and near Fort Huachuca, Arizona. It represents the culmination of more than a decade of conflict and eight years of litigation. The agreement is working to help save the San Pedro River.

Joining CBD in the letter to Gov. Napolitano is the Arizona Advocacy Network, Arizona Audubon Council, Arizona League of Conservation Voters, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Arizona Zoological Society, Audubon Arizona, Audubon Research Ranch, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Fund of Arizona, Friends of Arizona Rivers, Huachuca Audubon, Maricopa Audubon, San Pedro Alliance, Sky Island Alliance, Sierra Club, Southwest Forest Alliance, Tucson Audubon and Yuma Audubon. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva has also opposed the rider.

The Governor will also be presented with a two-foot by three-foot “postcard” from the San Pedro River signed by over 50 individuals. A similar postcard will be given to Senator John McCain.


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