Protecting San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area from Livestock Grazing

9th of Apr 2020

Advocates for the West sued Bureau of Land Management (BLM) this week for failing to protect the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) from destructive livestock grazing practices.

The SPRNCA starts at the U.S.-Mexico border and continues north approximately 47 miles along the San Pedro River. In 1988, Congress created the SPRNCA – the nation’s first riparian National Conservation Area – and BLM was charged to “conserve, protect, and enhance” the area’s unique conservation values.

The SPRNCA includes more than 46 miles of the San Pedro and Babocomari rivers, and nearly 55,000 acres of riparian areas and uplands, including four of the rarest habitat types in the Southwest (cottonwood/willow forests, marshlands, grasslands, and mesquite bosques). More than 400 birds, 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 80 species of mammals are found in the SPRNCA, making it a world-renowned biodiversity hotspot.

Last year, the BLM approved high levels of grazing on the protected lands, putting the area’s remarkable resources at risk. The agency authorized grazing on four separate allotments and shut the public out of its decision-making by including a provision that allows the BLM to increase the number of livestock allowed in the future without seeking public input.

The decision also allows the BLM to use “targeted grazing” by cows, sheep, or goats anywhere in the SPRNCA under the guise of “vegetation management.” Under the approach, BLM can allow grazing on closed areas, increase grazing above authorized levels, and allow livestock within critical wildlife habitat and other protected areas.  

“BLM should not be surprised by this lawsuit,” said Senior Attorney Todd Tucci. “BLM has known for decades that Congress required it to manage this area to conserve, protect and enhance the conservation values of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. And the mountain of scientific information establishes that BLM cannot protect these values – and the habitat for threatened and endangered species – by allowing the continued and expanded livestock grazing in this area.”

BLM’s SPRNCA plan violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as well. Grazing in this region threatens critical habitat for numerous ESA-listed species, including the Huachuca water umbel, southwestern willow flycatcher, ocelot, jaguar, desert pupfish, Gila topminnow, western yellow-billed cuckoo, and the northern Mexican gartersnake.

Advocates for the West is representing Western Watersheds, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club in this case.

Read the Complaint