Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project (520)623-1878
Ruling Protects Gila Box Watershed from New Livestock Infrastructure Pending Appeal
Tucson, Ariz –Western Watersheds Project’s appeal has halted a new water well and associated livestock grazing permit along the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area pending additional legal review. The well is proposed to be built on the Twin C grazing allotment along the Black Hills Back Country Byway, funded by Arizona taxpayers at a cost of $100,000 and benefits the livestock operator through additional upland waters for the privately-owned cattle. This week's order to stay the water well project reflects the fact that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) didn’t properly consider the impacts to riparian areas along the Gila River when issuing its decision to approve the well and permit.
“The BLM failed to consider potential impacts to the health of the river corridor within the specially-designated Gila Box Riparian NCA,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Even if livestock aren’t right in the river, they can have an indirect impact through things like upland erosion, depleting surface water flows, and degrading water quality. The agency is supposed to evaluate those impacts before approving permits.”
Water developments for livestock provide publicly-funded developments for the benefit of the industry, create new environmental stresses on the landscape ranging from depleting groundwater to noise and visual blight, and lead to a host of problems like invasive species infestations and wildlife drownings. The agency should be considering the removal of unsustainable industries from public lands rather than propping them up with additional infrastructure.
“At the end of the day, if Arizonans are going to pay for new wells and give ranchers thousands of gallons of water for free, and if all Americans are going to subsidize public lands ranching operations, the least the BLM can do is properly consider all aspects of the issue before issuing a decision. Failing to consider impacts to the Gila River is inadequate management,” said Anderson. “It’s a shame it takes the public to hold the agency’s feet to the fire to get them to follow their own laws and regulations.”