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Environmental groups sue feds over cattle grazing on protected land in Arizona

A pair of environmental groups announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for what they say is a failure to prevent cattle grazing on both streams and riparian areas of the Agua Fria National Monument in central Arizona.

The 33-page lawsuit from The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society alleges that the Bureau of Land Management is not doing enough to protect a handful of threatened and endangered species, including both the Gila chub and western yellow-billed cuckoo.

“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,” Maricopa Audubon President Charles Babbitt said in a press release. “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.”

The two organizations said on Jan. 12 that the federal government needs to remove grazing livestock from the monument to protect the ecosystem. 

The two organizations allege that the area has streams filled with cow manure, trampled streambanks, and vegetation grazed to the roots. They noted that it’s happening in an area designated to protect 28 bird species with special conservation status.

“It’s appalling to see the widespread damage that cattle have inflicted on this beautiful national monument,” Chris Bugbee, southwest advocate at The Center for Biological Diversity, said in the release. “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.”

In 2000, Democratic president Bill Clinton established the Agua Fria National Monument and ordered the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to manage it. The monument is located in Yavapai County, about 40 minutes north of Phoenix. It covers 71,000 acres. 

Additionally, in 2009, the Arizona Game and Fish Department acquired Horseshoe Ranch within the monument. The state is in charge of managing that portion of land, but The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society say they’re not doing enough to protect endangered species either.

“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,” Maricopa Audubon President Charles Babbitt said in the press release. “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.”

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management could not be immediately reached for comment.

This article was originally posted on Environmental groups sue feds over cattle grazing on protected land in Arizona

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