Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 6, 2021


Chris Bugbee, (305) 498-9112,

Survey: Grazing Destroying Critical Habitat in Arizona’s Agua Fria National Monument

Bureau of Land Management Urged to Remove Cattle

TUCSON, Ariz.― The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is failing to protect critical habitat for threatened and endangered species from destructive cattle grazing within Agua Fria National Monument, field surveys by the Center for Biological Diversity show. The Center has urged the BLM to remove the cattle so the monument’s streams and riparian areas can recover.

In March and April the Center 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 cattle damage here is some of the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Chris Bugbee, southwest advocate at the Center. “The BLM’s decision to allow cattle to destroy these spectacular streams endangers rare wildlife, contradicts the monument’s conservation purpose and violates the Endangered Species Act. The agency must remove cattle from the monument immediately.”

Some grazing is allowed under the monument proclamation signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, but protecting rare native species and their habitat is paramount, according to the proclamation. The monument’s management plans authorize grazing only from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28 in an effort to lessen impacts to protect threatened and endangered species.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission owns the grazing allotment headquarters and purchased the grazing permits using federal funds intended for endangered species protection. The BLM administers grazing permits on the national monument.

“It’s horrifying that the very agencies charged with protecting this beautiful place are letting cattle abuse it, and using federal money to do so,” Bugbee said. “The national monument was designated to protect riparian forests and imperiled wildlife. Poorly managed cattle grazing defies the monument’s purpose, especially when it comes to protecting life along rivers and streams.”

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 adapting 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

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 on 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 grazing damage in Agua Fria National Monument. Photo credit: Russ McSpadden, Center for Biological Diversity 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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