Lawsuit Settled over grazing in Sonoran Desert National Monument

Joint news release by the BLM and Western Watersheds Project-

This is a victory for WWPs Arizona Office in Tucson.


(PHOENIX, AZ)—The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Western Watersheds Projects announced today settlement of a federal lawsuit involving the Sonoran Desert National Monument southwest of Phoenix, Arizona.

Western Watersheds Project filed suit in August of 2008 to challenge livestock grazing within the Monument.  “Our goal was to compel BLM to manage grazing in ways that protect the National Monument and its natural resources,” says Greta Anderson, the Arizona Director of Western Watersheds.

The BLM, a federal agency, is currently drafting a land use plan for the management of the National Monument, called a Resource Management Plan. The settlement stipulates that the Plan must be completed by December 15, 2011.  They will include a determination of whether or not livestock grazing is compatible with the protection of objects identified in the 2001 Presidential Proclamation that established the Monument.   “The Arizona BLM is dedicated to protecting the objects of the National Monument, and this settlement affords the staff a greater opportunity to focus on field work and achieve the deadline to complete the management plans,” says Jim Kenna, the BLM Arizona state director.

Until the management plan is completed, the settlement also mandates that sections of the Monument currently closed to motorized traffic and off-highway vehicle use shall remain closed.  Kenna notes that in 2008, the BLM closed 88 miles of roads to restore damaged resources and protect the Monument.  “The BLM and its many volunteers are making tremendous progress restoring these lands, and the terms of the settlement are consistent with our commitments to Monument visitors and gateway communities.”

Western Watersheds Project will now be notified 72 hours in advance of field monitoring trips and may request to accompany BLM on livestock grazing monitoring trips that evaluate the health of Monument lands, which include habitat for Sonoran desert tortoise and myriad plants and animal species.  The BLM and Western Watersheds Project agree that management decisions will continue to be based on scientific data collected in the field with the public continuing to have opportunities to comment on range developments and seasonal grazing, pursuant to applicable law.

As a result of the settlement, Western Watersheds Project has agreed not to initiate further litigation challenging BLM’s management of the Monument pending completion of the Plan.

The settlement documents are available on the BLM Arizona Web at: and at the Western Watersheds Project web site:



  1. Justin Avatar

    I’m currently leading a crew doing restoration on the SDNM, you can see some of the photos here:

    Lots of work to do still but the closure has made a big difference.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    That’s wonderful work! Thank you.

    What were most of those you planted? Mesquite?

    I’ve noticed when people do something like this they remain interested years afterwards

  3. Nature rules Avatar
    Nature rules

    Hi Justin, thanks for the work, from a fellow Arizonan! I hope they close the whole area off to everyone. Humans do as much damage as the cattle. AZ has the worst destruction of desert lands I have ever seen, and no real rules to protect them. Look at four peaks, sycamore canyon, they are all ruined by shooters and Off road vehicles of all kinds. for 2 years I have gone out for the clean ups they have, tons and I mean tons of trash, shells, cars, furniture, burned trees etc…are picked up every year. Yet you never see any forest service or police out on the trails to write tickets. AZ is very bad for land mgmt.

  4. Justin Avatar

    It’s actually dead branches of creosote. The combination of decompacting the soil and providing a sheltered spot from wind/sun is as effective as transplanting since almost everything dies anyway. We normally collect seeds and make seed pits around the vertical mulch to help speed the process up.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    What about the cholla you planted? That looked like a sticky problem? 😉

    I can see why transplants would not be expected to grow.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan