Just above the northern reaches of the Phoenix megalopolis lies the Agua Fria National Monument, named for the river that runs through it and known for its rich archeological history and the refuge it provides for a broad range of wildlife species, including the imperiled Gila chub, yellow-billed cuckoo and northern Mexican garter snake. It’s a wonderful monument, with grass covered mesas and many miles of riparian areas within its borders.

Unfortunately, and even after years of public process following Arizona Game and Fish Department’s purchase of the base property, the Bureau of Land Management seems to be more than willing to see this unique wildlife habitat as an untapped opportunity to expand livestock use of the monument lands. In June, the agency issued a decision to add nearly twenty miles of water pipeline, new wells, tanks and troughs, and  drain up to 200,000 gallons of water from nearby riparian areas to benefit the livestock industryThe project would also have authorized the use of six different herbicides and allowed the use of livestock as “biological control agents.” The BLM itself admitted the proposed range projects would drain the watershed and draw livestock to areas that hadn’t been grazed in years, resulting in extensive trampling of vegetation wildlife rely on for survival, but then ignored those impacts in its decision to do just that.

This week, Western Watersheds Project’s Arizona office  successfully “stayed” that decision as part of its appeal. The judge recognized the immediate and irreparable harm this project would have on the wildlife, the native plants, and the seventeen miles of riparian areas found on the allotment.  The project can’t go forward until the appeal is resolved, and, with any luck, the agencies will rethink their plans to make these national monument lands into more cattle pasture. At least, one can hope for that outcome.

The Administrative Law Judge’s decision can be found online.

About The Author

Greta Anderson

Greta Anderson is a plant nerd, a desert rat, and a fan of wildness. She is the Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project and lives on the land of the Tohono O'Odham and Yaqui people in what is now called Arizona. Greta's opinions and world views are not necessarily reflected in the posts of other authors on this blog.

4 Responses to WWP wins a stay of grazing decision on Agua Fria National Monument

  1. Kate says:

    Well Done Greta! This is very good news. Keep up the good work! We are very grateful for all you do!

    • Greta Anderson says:

      Thanks Kate, but this wasn’t my work. Cyndi Tuell and Laura Welp were the bada*&es behind this victory! 🙂

  2. Gail says:

    This is the kind of story I love. Fingers crossed and thanks for reporting.

  3. Rob says:

    Great news. Thanks for posting this.
    Is there any way the public can provide support for this effort? I assume there was a public comment period on this decision but maybe not? Just curious to know a bit more about the process and how to get involved and have more public input. Thanks for any additional info you can provide – a website or whatever.


October 2019


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey