Sonoran Desert National Monument Followup Case

Sonoran Desert National Monument Followup Case

Current Status:

Date Filed:
May 20, 2013

Case Title:
Western Watersheds Project and Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Staff attorney(s):
Laurie Rule


Western Watersheds Project

Sierra Club

To Protect:

Native plants, wildlife, and cultural resources

Date won/settled:
August 9, 2023


Case Information:

August 9, 2023 — Advocates for the West won our lawsuit, halting livestock grazing authorizations in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. For the second time, a judge determined that the Bureau of Land Management relied on faulty information to justify livestock grazing on fragile desert landscapes within the Monument.

March 22, 2023 Advocates for the West filed our motion for summary judgment and memorandum in support, also requesting oral argument.

June 29, 2021 — Advocates for the West filed suit against the Arizona Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) for failing to protect the native plants, wildlife, and cultural resources found within the Sonoran Desert National Monument from the devastating impacts of livestock grazing. This suit challenges the Bureau’s 2020 land management decision. The decision was rushed through under the Trump Administration and opens up the entire monument north of Interstate 8 to livestock grazing, despite extensive scientific evidence that grazing damages the very resources the monument status is intended to protect.

May 18, 2015 — BLM filed its Supplemental Report, attempting to provide the explanations and support for BLM’s grazing decision that the Court found lacking in its February 26, 2015 Order.  On June 19, 2015, Advocates for the West filed an opening brief challenging that report.  Not only does the report fail to address key issues raised by the Court and offer explanations that are inconsistent and not supported by the data, but most importantly, it was never provided to the public or peer reviewers for comment, which violates NEPA.  Our brief asks the Court to find that BLM’s report is insufficient to fix the flaws the Court found, and to order BLM to redo its grazing analysis entirely.

February 26, 2015 — The court found that “[T]he process by which BLM made its decision to allow grazing on the Sonoran Desert National Monument…was not adequately explained nor adequately supported…and thus violates NEPA.”

This is a tremendous victory for the delicate Sonoran landscape and its many sensitive species, such as the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and mule deer.

BLM has been ordered to file a supplemental report providing the reasoned explanations for its grazing decision or stating that it will adopt a new decision by April 24, 2015.

April 4, 2014 — Laurie Rule – with help from Greta Anderson at Western Watersheds Project – filed a summary judgment brief and statement of facts on this case.

This case is a follow-up to one we filed in 2008 that resulted in a settlement agreement forcing BLM to complete a new management plan for the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The Monument Proclamation determined that BLM could only permit livestock grazing in the area if it was compatible with protecting the natural resources on the monument, such as various plant communities, the Sonoran desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, and cultural resources.

BLM issued their new plan in September 2012, 11 long years after the initial designation of the monument and 3 years after our settlement agreement. The new plan allowed for grazing on more than 157,000 acres of the Monument, but that analysis was rife with problems and was severely lacking in scientific credibility. Instead of adhering to sound science, BLM changed objectives, ignored data, made assumptions that lacked support, and ignored conclusions by other researchers finding that cattle were harming the ecosystem, all so it could provide for more grazing on the Monument, to the detriment of the resources there.

Advocates for the West ​is challenging the grazing analysis within the new plan to force BLM to rewrite their management plan.