Groups say Salt River grazing plan could imperil habitat, species

As the Sonoran Desert fades over and above the horizon and flat lands slowly but surely give way, the rugged landscape of Tonto National Forest bends toward the sky east of Phoenix. Desert-dwelling saguaros are replaced by pine forests that are a refuge for campers and hikers looking to escape the arid ailments.

But the euphonic buzz of cicadas hiding in the shade of juniper trees in a remote location of the protected land may soon be drowned out by the lowing of cows. 

The U.S Forest Service is looking at a prepare to authorize up to 1,900 new cattle to graze alongside the Salt River, with additional livestock infrastructure in the Salt River Canyon Wilderness Area. 

The venture, recognized as the Hicks-Pike Peak grazing authorization, would permit the growth of cattle grazing, add virtually 6 miles of fencing together the Salt River and let cattle in an space that has not been grazed by livestock in about a decade.