For Immediate Release ~ December 4, 2019
Cyndi Tuell, Western Watersheds Project, 520-272-2454, firstname.lastname@example.org
TUCSON, Ariz.—Today, Western Watersheds Project sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for illegally issuing a grazing permit on public lands that had been off limits to livestock use for nearly thirty years. The Badger Den allotment just north of Bowie, Arizona in the San Simon Valley, is located in an area severely degraded by historic overgrazing. It is also the site of several restoration projects, including what is known as the Sands Draw Exclosure, which could one day be home to native fish such as the Gila chub. The BLM’s decision to resurrect this long-dead grazing permit neglected to follow the agency’s own rules and kept the decision from the public until nearly a year after that decision was signed.
“Cattle haven’t been allowed here for decades, yet this area is absolutely hammered by livestock,” said attorney Cyndi Tuell, Western Watersheds Project’s Arizona and New Mexico Director. “The failure of the BLM to follow the law or recognize the slow recovery time of southwestern desert ecosystems is unbelievable, especially given the tremendous effort the agency has spent to restore small pieces of these damaged public lands.”
The Badger Den allotment has a long history of controversy and after repeated instances of willful trespass and a lengthy court process, the permit was canceled by the BLM in 1991. The previous permittee locked gates to public lands, refused to remove his livestock as required by his permit, and was eventually held in contempt of court for failing to refusing to recognize the federal government’s authority to manage livestock use on federal public lands.
In 2018, the BLM used an expedited process to authorize the transfer of the cancelled permit. This fast-tracked process did not allow for public involvement, ignored the ecological importance of this area and the potential impacts to ongoing restoration projects, and failed to account for the fact this allotment had been subject to ongoing trespass and unauthorized use since 1991. The BLM also failed to even notify the public of the permit renewal, in violation of the law.
“The BLM did the right thing when it stood up to the previous scofflaw rancher by canceling the grazing permit in the 1990s after repeated violations the terms of that permit,” said Tuell. “The agency itself is the scofflaw now, by renewing this zombie permit, ignoring public interests, overlooking environmental impacts, and failing to acknowledge the egregious history of overuse.”
A copy of the complaint filed today can be found here.
The mission of Western Watersheds Project (www.westernwatersheds.org) is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy.