Sonoran Desert National Monument

A pair of conservation groups sued the Arizona Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in late June, arguing against the bureau’s decision to allow livestock grazing in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West challenged BLM’s revised livestock grazing analysis for its Sonoran Desert National Monument resource management plan amendment (RMPA), calling the decision “rushed,” claiming grazing will damage resources.

“Rather than addressing the problems of the prior analysis, BLM conducted a new analysis that is equally flawed and allows for even more future livestock grazing that will degrade the biological and cultural resources on the Monument, in violation of the proclamation that established the Sonoran Desert National Monument,” the groups wrote in the suit.

The monument spans 496,337 acres and is located just south of Phoenix, AZ. The BLM’s 2020 plan made six grazing allotments within the monument open for livestock grazing. The allotments would range from ephemeral only to 4,232 animal unit months.

BLM originally released a plan in 2012 for livestock grazing to continue, but a court ordered the bureau to redo its analysis, which led to a September 2020 decision.

“The agency’s ‘science’ went from bad to worse under the 2020 decision, including by relying on improved conditions in areas that had not been grazed for years to justify expanding grazing use,” said Laurie Rule, attorney with Advocates for the West.

“The selected alternative meets the purpose and need of the RMPA/environmental analysis and when compared to the other alternatives, allows for the most flexibility in grazing management to be defined at the implementation level after site-specific environmental analysis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” BLM wrote in its decision.

The groups’ lawsuit calls for the courts to vacate the RMPA and final EA. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor

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