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Federal agencies agree to limit cattle from grazing in sensitive habitats

Federal land management agencies have agreed to do more to keep cattle from grazing in sensitive habitats in the Verde River watershed. A U.S. District Court judge approved the settlement between ecological groups and the federal agencies. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service agreed to inspect river areas near grazing land. They also will take action to return any cattle to their owners and fix broken fencing. 

The agreement covers 140 miles of streams and 22 ranching allotments in northern Arizona.

Disputes go back to 1998, when the Forest Service agreed to stop livestock from grazing riparian habitats. 

The Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit along with the Maricopa Audubon Society.  Center cofounder Robin Silver says the problem breaks down to a lack of enforcement. 

“It's not like the ranchers don't know that their cows are in the wrong place. The ranchers know. It's just they know the Forest Service never checks," Silver said.

Two other cattle grazing cases covering Arizona wildlife have been settled this year. 

Those settlements covered areas in the White Mountains and the Gila River Watershed as well.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this story. 

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.