Federal Officials Commit to Feral Cow Removal Throughout San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society have reached a legal agreement with the US Bureau of Land Management guaranteeing that the agency will remove all trespass cows from the entire San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The BLM has also agreed to inspect, repair and maintain the conservation area’s boundary fencing to keep the trespass cows out.

The agreement is in response to the Center’s and Maricopa Audubon’s October 6, 2021, lawsuit against the BLM for ignoring needed fence repairs and trespassing cows that put the Huachuca water umbel and its San Pedro wetlands habitat at risk.

The legal agreement is also in response to the nearly 50 complaints Center and Maricopa Audubon members have filed in the past two years against the BLM’s failure to remove the trespass cows, who have already destroyed the largest population of Huachuca water umbel, an endangered plant.

Scott Feldhausen, the BLM manager of the conservation area, admitted in public on September 22, 2021, that he has not been rounding up the trespass cows owing to “fear of violence by local ranchers” to his staff if he were to order and they were to proceed with a roundup.

“Finally we have an enforceable agreement with the BLM to remove the trespass cows annihilating the San Pedro’s streamside vegetation,” said Robin Silver, a co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agreement requires the agency to fix and maintain the conservation area’s fencing to keep the cows out and stand up to violent local ranchers who have been intimidating BLM employees from doing their jobs. Cows don’t belong along the San Pedro River, much less anywhere else along any desert streams.”

“What a great victory for the San Pedro!” said Maricopa Audubon President Emily Thomas. “Scientific studies have shown that desert streams recover and flourish when cows are removed. It is about time this national and international treasure will finally get its promised protection from these destructive trespass cows.”

The Huachuca water umbel is an herbaceous, perennial plant with slender, erect leaves. The plants once flourished in extensive riparian habitats in southeastern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico, but the species has been reduced to several disconnected clumps in a handful of Southwest wetlands. In 1996 the Center petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the plant under the Endangered Species Act and it was listed the following year.

The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area was the nation’s first, created by Congress in 1988. It includes more than 46 miles of the San Pedro and Babocomari rivers, and nearly 55,000 acres of riparian areas and uplands, including four of the rare habitat types in the Southwest ― cottonwood/willow forests, marshlands, grasslands and mesquite bosques.

More than 400 birds, 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 80 species of mammals are found in the conservation area, making it a world-renowned biodiversity hotspot.

Other endangered species in the area include Southwestern willow flycatchers, ocelots, jaguars, desert pupfish, Gila topminnows, western yellow-billed cuckoos and northern Mexican garter snakes and Arizona eryngo.

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