/ Modified nov 2, 2023 3:18 p.m.

Cattle grazing is ruining the habitat of 2 endangered bird species along Arizona river, lawsuit says

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson targets seven grazing allotments spanning 15 miles along the Gila River.

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Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allegedly failing to protect the habitat for two endangered species of birds along Arizona’s Gila River.

The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society said damage from cattle grazing is decimating the streams that the southwestern willow flycatcher and western yellow-billed cuckoo rely on.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tucson targets seven grazing allotments spanning 15 miles (24 kilometers) of the river downstream from Coolidge Dam.

The environmental groups said field surveys this year and in 2022 documented open gates, downed fences, and extensive damage to the Gila River’s riparian vegetation.

Officials with the Center for Biological Diversity said they filed two notices of intent to sue the agencies following the surveys, but cattle grazing continued along the river that extends into New Mexico.

They said up to 75% of Arizona’s resident wildlife species depend on riparian areas for their survival.

The Gila River is a nearly 650-mile-long (1,046-kilometer-long) tributary of the Colorado River and flows through parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

Calls to the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service seeking comment on the lawsuit weren’t immediately returned Thursday.

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