Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 10, 2022


Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity, (602) 799-3275,
Charles Babbitt, Maricopa Audubon Society, (602) 617-1990,

Lawsuit Expands Challenge to Damaging Grazing in Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society initiated new legal proceedings against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management today to stop cattle in four grazing allotments from further damaging streams and riparian areas of the Agua Fria National Monument in central Arizona.

In January the Center and Maricopa Audubon sued the BLM to stop cows in a nearby area from damaging the rest of the monument’s streams and riparian areas. The proceedings filed Monday will be added to that lawsuit.

Cattle grazing in the monument is severely damaging habitat for numerous threatened and endangered species, including designated riparian critical habitat for the Gila chub and western yellow-billed cuckoo.

“We’re expanding our lawsuit because the BLM’s Arizona staff seems to believe their main job is to service their favored rancher patrons,” said Robin Silver, Center board member and co-founder. “The streams in Agua Fria National Monument are protected by law, but these federal employees obviously don’t care about federal law, Arizona’s wildlife or wild places. We’re hopeful a judge will force them to obey the law and safeguard this magnificent monument.”

The Center has documented streams filled with cow manure, trampled streambanks and vegetation grazed to the roots, harming critical habitat for threatened wildlife. The monument, managed by the BLM, was designated to protect riparian forests, grasslands and a diverse assortment of native wildlife, including more than 28 bird species with special conservation status.

“It’s an insult to Arizonans and the rest of the American public that BLM employees have allowed streams in this spectacular national monument to become so degraded,” said Maricopa Audubon President Charles Babbitt. “Endangered species across the Southwest are in crisis because these agencies are unable or unwilling to keep cows away from the riparian habitats that rare plants and animals depend on for survival.”

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.

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.

Cattle in yellow-billed cuckoo critical habitat, Box Bar allotment, Agua Fria River, Agua Fria National Monument. Photo credit: Robin Silver Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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