"The Forest Service has admitted that grazing is likely to harm these minnows and that its analysis of the impacts is not adequate," said Earthjustice attorney Susan Daggett. "We are asking for grazing on these lands to be curtailed until the proper procedures are followed."
The case addresses the Forest Service's refusal to stop grazing while it considers the impact livestock grazing could have on endangered species on - 11 grazing allotments. Attorneys are also challenging the ruling that under the Endangered Species Act, the Mangas Valley allotment in the Gila National Forest is safe for grazing.
Livestock grazing can degrade crucial riparian areas until they are no longer suitable habitat for the species they support. By depleting vegetation, overgrazing can impact both soil and flood patterns, permanently altering the nature of the ecosystem. For the loach minnow, this habitat destruction has led to a range reduction of at least 80 percent from their historical range.
"We know that irresponsible grazing practices can bring irreparable harm to these critical watershed habitats," said Daggett. "We also know that these minnows likely are in grave danger of losing their habitat. The Forest Service hasn't even finished assessing these risks. Yet grazing continues. That's a big problem."
The plaintiffs' opening brief (01-16092) was filed in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.