Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
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Contact: Kieran Suckling May 7, 2003
Center for Biological Diversity
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More Information: San Pedro River Campaign

Renzi’s “Golf Course and Garden Rider” Threatens Environment, Fort Huachuca

Making a bad bill worse, Arizona Representative Rick Renzi today attached rider to H.R. 1835, the “National Security Readiness Act of 2003,” exempting military gardens, lawns, pools, and golf courses from environmental laws. “It’s unbelievable,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, “while the rest of the nation is focused on national security, Renzi wants to exempt golf courses, gardens, and swimming pools from environmental laws.”

In a party line vote, the rider was approved 21 to 15. It was opposed by Representative Raul Grijalva.

The “National Security Readiness Act of 2003" is supposed to address military training issues. Renzi’s rider, however, neither refers to, nor addresses military training. It does not even address actions occurring on military bases. Instead, his rider exempts the military from taking responsibility for water pumping it causes to occur surrounding military bases. Fort Huachuca, for example, estimates that it is responsible for 54% of the population in the Upper San Pedro River Basin and that the water used on and off-base by that population is a significant threat to the San Pedro River. In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, therefore, Fort Huachuca agreed on August 23, 2002 to implement water conservation measures to protect the river and several endangered species. Though the water conservation efforts caused no changes to military training, though they were developed jointly by the Fort and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and though the Secretary of the Army gave the Fort an environmental award for its efforts on 4-24-03, Renzi’s rider would excuse the military from all such conservation obligations.

While Renzi will claim the rider is needed for national security, the rider was not asked for by the Department of Defense. It does not address military training in any way. Instead it exempts: “use of water, from any source, for human purposes of any kind, including household or industrial use, irrigation, or landscaping.” According to Suckling “landscaping and irrigation are not matters of national security. Renzi is way out in left field on this one. His anti-environmental frenzy knows no bounds.”

Renzi’s rider is a new version of two rider Jim Kolbe unsuccessfully tried to pass last year. But while Kolbe’s riders were floated while there was still debate over how to mitigate Fort Huachuca’s waters use, the issue has since been settled. On August 23, 2002, the Fort and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an agreement on water conservation measures necessary to prevent the drying of the San Pedro River and the extinction of several endangered species. That agreement is supported by environmentalists, including the Center for Biological Diversity which successfully sued over an earlier, weaker plan. Announcing the agreement, Brig. Gen. James A. Marks, commanding general of Fort Huachuca stated: "In practical terms, this means Fort Huachuca is in a position to execute missions required by the department of Army in support of national security. It also puts the Fort in a favorable position to expand and change some of those missions as needed." H. Dale Hall, Director of the Southwestern Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated: "These consultations have resulted in a realistic 10-year plan that allows the Army to fulfill its mission without jeopardizing some of the nation's rarest species that rely upon the area." In recognition of the agreement and its efforts to implement it, Fort Huachuca was Awarded the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation on April 24, 2003.

“The military, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and environmentalists are all satisfied,” said Suckling, “whose problem is Renzi claiming to solve?”

The USFWS/Fort Huachuca press release on the agreement is attached.


The water conservation agreement brought closure to a decade long controversy over Fort Huachuca’s impact on the San Pedro River. It also laid to rest any concern that the Fort might be closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission because of its impact on the environment. After a long struggle, the Fort, state and federal agencies, and conservation groups began the real work of implementing the agreed upon water saving measures. Renzi’s rider is a giant step backward. If passed, it revive public controversy, threaten the nascent agreement, engender new lawsuits, and cloud the future of Fort Huachuca once again.


The San Pedro River Watershed is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth. It is also one of North America's most important wildlife havens. More than four hundred bird species--nearly half the U.S. total--live in or migrate through the basin. It is also home to 180 species of butterflies, 87 species of mammals, and 68 amphibians and reptiles. The San Pedro has the highest diversity of vertebrate species in the inland U.S. and the second highest diversity of land-mammals in the world.

In recognition of its biological importance, the American Bird Conservancy picked the San Pedro as its first "globally important bird area," The Nature Conservancy deemed it one of the eight "last great places" in the northern hemisphere, and in 1988, Congress designated a 45-mile stretch of the upper river as the nation's first Riparian National Conservation Area.


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