Western Watersheds Project Wins Appeal of Grazing Decision on Grand Canyon-Quality Landscapes on Arizona Strip

Western Watersheds Project Wins Appeal of Grazing Decision on Grand Canyon-Quality Landscapes on Arizona Strip

For immediate release – May 27, 2010
Contact: Greta Anderson, Arizona Director (520) 623-1878

Tucson, Ariz – A federal judge has ruled in favor of Western Watersheds Project and reversed a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to allow livestock grazing on the Kanab Gulch grazing allotment on the Arizona Strip. “The undisputed material facts show that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Administrative Law Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer, and he sent the decision back to the drawing board.

Kanab Gulch allotment consists entirely of public lands and is within the Kanab Creek Wilderness Area, near the Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. The allotment has important archeological remains, and it provides habitat for desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, and other wildlife. Although livestock are known to impact these sensitive resources, the BLM considered only one management alternative: the status quo. The National Environmental Policy Act requires agencies to consider multiple alternatives so that the impacts of a proposed action can be viewed in context.

“The status quo isn’t going to cut it anymore,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The BLM has been managing this allotment in the same way since at least 1979. Times have changed, and the American public is interested in protecting our outstanding public lands for more than cheap forage for livestock operators. In places like Kanab Gulch, the BLM should be taking a hard look at what those other interests may be.”

The judge determined that the BLM failed to consider a range of reasonable alternatives, relied on outdated environmental analyses, neglected to consider public comments, and failed to consider the conflicts between livestock grazing and desert bighorn sheep habitat. The ruling also reminded the BLM that relying on land management plans in place of site-specific decision-making unacceptable. Western Watersheds Project had raised all of these points in its appeal of the decision in June of 2009.

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