The Maricopa Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) have filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Endangered Species Act violations caused by livestock grazing on the Tonto National Forest.
The basis for the filing is new cow-grazing damage found by the CBD’s recent land surveys, from September 2020 to March of this year.
The organizations say that the government has repeatedly failed to control the grazing, primarily along the Salt River and its tributaries.
“We’ll keep doing everything we can to stop the Forest Service’s promotion of cow-ranching abuse of our rivers and streams,” said Maricopa Audubon Society Conservation Chair Charles Babbitt in a statement. “There’s no place for cows anywhere along our desert waterways. They’re too destructive and they’re causing endangered plants and animals, especially songbirds, to disappear.”
Some of the endangered species the organizations say are impacted by the grazing include yellow-billed cuckoos, Southwestern willow flycatchers, Chiricahua leopard frogs, northern Mexican garter snakes, narrow-headed garter snakes, spikedace, razorback suckers and Gila chub.
In 2020, the CBD released land surveys conducted by its staff and contractors which found cattle damage, including manure and flattened streambanks, on the Verde River as far south as the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.