TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management today to challenge widespread, destructive cattle grazing in streams and riparian areas of the Agua Fria National Monument in central Arizona.
The grazing is destroying habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, including designated critical habitat for the Gila chub and western yellow-billed cuckoo.
“It’s appalling to see the widespread damage that cattle have inflicted on this beautiful national monument,” said Chris Bugbee, southwest advocate at the Center. “The Agua Fria River and Silver Creek are supposed to be protected from grazing, but we’ve repeatedly documented riparian areas that are filled with manure and trampled by cows. Federal officials have ignored this destruction and let cattle run rampant, so we’re hopeful a judge will force them to do their jobs and protect these fragile ecosystems.”
The Center has documented streams filled with cow manure, trampled streambanks and vegetation grazed to the roots, harming critical habitat for threatened yellow-billed cuckoo and endangered Gila chub. The monument was designated to protect riparian forests, grasslands and a diverse assortment of native wildlife, including more than 28 bird species with special conservation status.
The Agua Fria National Monument, created by presidential proclamation in 2000, is managed by the BLM. In 2009 the Arizona Game and Fish Department purchased Horseshoe Ranch and the grazing rights for the Horseshoe allotment, which are within the monument, to manage this habitat for endangered species.
“Even within a national monument, on a grazing allotment controlled by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the BLM, the agencies can’t keep cows out of streams,” said Maricopa Audubon President Charles Babbitt. “Endangered species across the Southwest are in crisis because these agencies are unable or unwilling to protect the riparian habitats they depend on from cows.”
In the desert Southwest, livestock grazing harms threatened and endangered wildlife and is the primary driver of riparian ecosystem degradation. Removal of livestock from riparian areas is a critical component of adaptation to climate change. Perennial water on the Agua Fria River, which runs through the monument, has decreased dramatically over the past decade.
About Agua Fria National Monument
The Agua Fria National Monument includes more than 71,000 acres of public lands and is famous for its vast expanse of mesas, canyons, grasslands and riparian forests. This outstanding biological resource encompasses critical habitat for threatened yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) and endangered Gila chub (Gila intermedia) and is an important fawning area for Sonoran pronghorn.
Other protected species found in the monument, such as lowland leopard frogs, Northern Mexican garter snakes, common black hawks and four species of native fish, all depend on intact and untrammeled riparian ecosystems to exist. In addition to these ecological treasures, the monument contains one of the most significant prehistoric sites in the American Southwest.