Defenders Files Grazing Appeal to Protect Sonoran Public Lands

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(03/17/1997) - Phoenix, AZ -- Defenders of Wildlife today filed an appeal against the issuance of an Arizona grazing permit citing this as an example of how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is failing to meet its obligations to protect the environment by indescriminately issuing permits for private livestock grazing on public lands.

The appeal charges that the BLM has failed to do a site-specific environmental analysis of the proposed grazing area on public lands as required by law under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Planning and Management Act (FLPMA). Under these Acts, the BLM is mandated to prepare such analyses before issuing grazing permits on public lands which are subsidized by taxpayers. Grazing in the region is already having significant impact on desert habitat, and continued grazing activity without aggressive monitoring and environmental protections would severely reduce the chance for survival of many desert species, according to the appeal.

Defenders' President Rodger Schlickeisen said, "The Sonoran desert is under constant attack from human activities such as highway construction and agricultural development. This fragile region, which contains an impressive array of plant and animal species, is not able to withstand intensive livestock grazing in addition to the increased human threats to biodiversity."

Sonoran-wide cattle grazing is adversely impacting the severely endangered Sonoran pronghorn antelope, as well as some riparian birds such as the critically endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher. Other species affected by livestock grazing in the area are bighorn sheep, the desert tortoise, and a unique amphibian community in a grassland Area of Critical Environmental Concern, as designated by the BLM.

"This is pretty straightforward," said Schlickeisen. "The BLM has flat-out failed to do the analyses on these public lands required to issue these grazing permits. The taxpayers are unwittingly subsidizing cattle grazing that is destroying these incredibly delicate environmental habitats. This must stop-- plain and simple."

While only a single grazing allotment is at question under this appeal, it also brings into question the way that the BLM issues grazing permits throughout the entire Sonoran desert region and throughout the western United States. The appeal charges that the BLM needs to do a much more thorough job of complying with NEPA and FLPMA regulations by analyzing the prospective environmental impacts in any given region before giving clearance for livestock grazing.

Defenders is filing the appeal in conjunction with the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and local grazing activist Steve Johnson, and is being represented by Phoenix attorney David Armacost.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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Sonoran Pronghorn,  © Mark Milburn
In the Magazine
With an oblong face and a black nose splotch, the Sonoran pronghorn stands out against the cacti-strewn landscape of the American Southwest.