Bureau of Land Management’s Livestock Grazing Analysis on Sonoran Desert Deemed Insufficient by Environmental Orgs

Environmental organizations sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Tuesday, claiming its revised livestock grazing analysis of the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona is seriously flawed. 

“Rather than fixing its prior analysis to adequately protect the Monument objects, BLM chose to issue yet another unscientific grazing decision that protects no land from livestock grazing—ensuring that the recovery occurring over the past ten years will be reversed and grazing will again harm many of the biological and cultural resources on the Monument,” the Western Watersheds Project and Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club stated in the suit. 

In its initial grazing analysis submitted in 2012 as part of its Sonoran Desert National Monument Resource Management Plan, BLM claimed that livestock grazing is not detrimental to the Monument’s ecosystem and should be allowed to continue. Western Watershed Project and the Sierra Club sued in May 2013, stating that, “BLM’s livestock compatibility determination was based on a flawed, inadequate, and incomplete Land Health Evaluation and analysis and thus is arbitrary and capricious.” The court agreed, and deemed the analysis unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act. 

The Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse desert in North America. President Bill Clinton established the 496,337-acre Monument in January 2001 to protect the biodiversity of the plants and animals and their habitats, as well as the historic and cultural sites in the area. According to the proclamation that established the Monument, livestock grazing was damaging the Sonoran ecosystem, and all grazing allotments in the southern portion of the Monument were closed. Grazing in the northern portion is only allowed to continue if BLM can determine if it is compatible with protecting the biodiversity of the Monument. 

Lauren M. Rule and Cynthia C. Tuell represent the plaintiffs.