That ruling recognized that "grazing threatens the owl's survival because it reduces the amount of available prey, promotes destructive fires, degrades vegetation in riparian areas, and slows the development of productive habitat."
In 1996 the US Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that immediate implementation of the standards set in the 1996 forest plan amendments was necessary to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of the Mexican spotted owl.
Forest Service monitoring data reveal that approximately three million acres of land are being overgrazed in the Southwest. Additionally, the Forest Service had failed to monitor for overgrazing on more than 15 million acres of national forest land in New Mexico and Arizona. Despite not having any information, the agency continues to permit grazing that damages fish and wildlife habitat.
The most recent assessments of stream and wetland conditions on the southwestern national forests found more than 90 percent of streams and rivers in poor shape. The 1996 plan amendments called for the immediate protection of these areas because of their critical importance to Mexican spotted owls.
In addition to Forest Guardians, other groups filing the suit include Gila Watch, White Mountain Conservation League, Carson Forest Watch, Maricopa Audubon Society, Animal Protection of New Mexico, Forest Conservation Council, Arizona Wildlife Federation, and T & E Inc. The groups represent more than 50,000 residents of the Southwest who believe public lands should be managed primarily for the protection of fish and wildlife.