Groups Intend to Sue Government for Allowing Grazing Cattle to Destroy Protected Area

The Maricopa Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday filed a notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management and its Fish and Wildlife Service because it has allegedly failed to protect the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area in southeast Arizona.  The notice claimed that “extensive cattle grazing damage” in the area is endangering wildlife native to the desert oasis.

“It’s heartbreaking to see what used to be lush streams and riparian areas now extensively grazed, trampled and littered with cow feces,” said Chris Bugbee, southwest advocate at the Center in a press release. “Because the BLM has failed to protect the Gila Box, it’s been overrun by cows that aren’t supposed to be there. The agency must remove the cattle and fix these fences immediately.”

The Gila Box conservation area is the home to multiple endangered species, yellow-billed cuckoos, southwestern willow flycatchers, Gila chub, Gila topminnow, desert pupfish, loach minnow, and spikedace. The area includes 23,000 acres of public land, contains 1,000 foot high cliffs, and is a popular area for birdwatching.  The environmental groups claimed that over 32 miles of river which they surveyed showed significant cow damages, despite that cows are supposed to be kept from the area. 

In their filing, the groups claimed that the BLM has not protected the area as it is supposed to do, and asked them to protect the area which is a haven for songbirds and other animals that live in and near rivers. They argued that removing the cattle is necessary for the ecosystem to survive, and adapt to climate change. 

The notice of intent to sue gives the government agency 60 days to address the problem before they will file a lawsuit. Allegations in the complaint would be based on the Endangered Species Act.