WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

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Photo Credit: Joshua, Adobe Stock

Full WildEarth Guardians history – from our founding in 1989 to present-day

WildEarth Guardians’ History


Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson for setting fire to U.S. Bureau of Land Management Lands and their grazing permits were revoked. Then President Trump pardoned the Hammonds and then-Interior Secretary Zinke renewed their permits with no environmental analysis. In response to our lawsuit, a judge revoked the Hammonds’ privilege of grazing on public lands.

After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service failed for 23 years to ensure Mexican spotted owl recovery by collecting basic data on owl populations across the Southwest, Guardians sued to protect the owl and won. The ruling halted logging on six national forests in New Mexico and Arizona–12 million acres total.

We stopped what would have been perhaps the largest logging and road-building project ever in Wyoming. The Medicine Bow Landscape Analysis Vegetation (LaVa) Project covered 850,000 acres and would have logged 360,000 of them, including 123,000 acres across 25 different Roadless Areas. It would also have included building 600 miles of temporary roads. The Forest Service withdrew the project after pressure from Guardians and allies.

After many years of work by Guardians and allies, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Bureau of Land Management illegally approved fracking in the Greater Chaco region, as it failed to take into account the impacts of nearly 4,000 new oil and gas wells on water supplies, community health, air quality, climate, and the cultural integrity of the area.

In response to Guardians’ lawsuit, a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management did not adequately quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing and rejected the sale of 300,000 acres of public lands in Wyoming for fracking. The ruling is a major blow to the Trump administration’s anti-environment, anti-climate agenda, and has implications for public lands across the American West.

We safeguarded fragile landscapes and wildlife on the Ochoco National Forest of Oregon by blocking a U.S. Forest Service plan that would have added 137 miles of disruptive and damaging new off-highway vehicle trails.


We forced the Santa Fe National Forest to rethink a travel management plan that would harm endangered Jemez Mountains salamanders, which live in only one place on earth.

We restored Endangered Species Act protections to the grizzly bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the nick of time, on the eve of a planned trophy hunt.

After our legal challenge, a judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to redo its 2015 management rule for Mexican wolves. The misguided plan ignored best available science, placing arbitrary population caps on lobos; limiting their territory; and allowing more lobos to be killed—hardly conducive to recovery of the species.


Prevailed in the conservative-leaning 10th Circuit, winning a ruling that could ultimately keep two billion tons of coal in the ground in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The victory complements our relentless legal advocacy to bring a just and swift end to the federal coal program.

Through a lawsuit, helped quash the Department of Justice’s misguided “McKittrick Policy,” which allowed killers of endangered species to get away with murder by claiming not to know the identity of the species they killed. The policy had crippled prosecutions of those who kill animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, such as Mexican wolves.


Won a legal settlement that prohibits federal wildlife-killing agency Wildlife Services from trapping, poisoning, and using other cruel and indiscriminate practices on more than six million acres of our public lands in Nevada.

Helped secure a “moratorium” on new coal leasing on public lands in the Rocky Mountain West, keeping 1.8 billion tons of coal in the ground.

Pushed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain existing Endangered Species Act safeguards for the grizzly bear.


Won a legal settlement greatly reducing steel leg-hold trapping in lynx habitat in Montana.


Created a diverse coalition of indigenous and environmental groups working to protect the Greater Chaco landscape from the threat of fracking.

Completed our first, voluntary retirement of a grazing allotment with a public lands rancher, removing livestock from almost 50 square miles in the Greater Gila.

Won a precedent-setting legal ruling involving a coal mine in Colorado that requires federal land management agencies to consider the social cost of cumulative and inclusive effects of mining and burning coal.


Expanded from a small southwestern advocacy group to a national powerhouse with offices in eight states.


Planted our one millionth tree on degraded streams and rivers across the Southwest.


Reached a landmark nationwide Endangered Species Act legal settlement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which prevented the government from dragging its feet when adding animals and plants to the endangered species list. Our actions resulted in the listing of nearly 200 endangered species by 2016.

Created a national Keep It in the Ground coalition and campaign whose aim it is to end the extraction of fossil fuels that underlie public lands and waters.


Convinced Governor Bill Richardson to issue an executive order banning steel leg-hold trapping in the habitat of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf.

Partially or completely shut down three coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico.

In New Mexico, secured the single largest designation of outstanding waters in the history of the Clean Water Act.


Fought to end the trapping and shooting of, and restore Endangered Species Act protections to, the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies.


Worked to protect 75 million acres of the Sagebrush Sea for the greater sage grouse and Gunnison sage grouse.

Advanced our rewilding vision and restoration economy by convincing the Forest Service to create, and Congress to fund, the Legacy Roads and Trails program to ensure a dedicated funding stream to close, reclaim, and rewild old, damaging and now-unneeded logging roads on national forests.


Petitioned to protect nearly 700 imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act.

Secured new endangered species protections for more than 100 species.


Won a precedent-setting legal ruling that required the BLM to look at connected and cumulative impacts of a proposal to privatize certain public lands in Nevada.

Saved more than 150,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat and important wildlands from oil and gas drilling.

Ensured that Colorado wildlife policy supports full protection of wolves that travel to Colorado from Yellowstone.


Launched a Climate & Energy program to confront climate change and challenge our dependence on fossil fuels.

Petitioned under the Endangered Species Act to protect the greater sage grouse and its nearly 75 million acres of prime habitat.


Formally added Prairie Dog Day to Groundhog Day, asking for additional public support for our charismatic burrowing rodents.


After five years of legal advocacy, we secured the first-ever instream flows for the Rio Grande. The Rio, America’s Great River, is the lifeblood of the desert southwest; when its flows diminish, the ecology, culture, and economy of the surrounding area suffer. Securing flows for the river is vital for safeguarding its future.

Spearheaded efforts that closed 50 million acres of national forests to cross-country, motorized vehicle abuse.


Shined a national spotlight on corrupt public land trades and exchanges, preventing the giveaway of precious public lands to timber, mining, and real-estate industries.


Secured significant reforms to protect mother cougars and dependent young in Colorado and New Mexico.


Halted livestock grazing along 300 miles of heavily degraded southwestern rivers, one of the largest injunctions against cattle grazing on public lands.


Won a lawsuit that halted logging on 21 million acres of southwestern national forests. Our lawsuit remains one of the largest in the history of the Forest Service and essentially ended logging as we know it in the Southwest. It also protected the home and habitat of the endangered Mexican spotted owl.


Won the first grazing lease on state trust lands to use them for conservation instead of extraction.


Helped prohibit high-body-count wildlife killing contests of prairie dogs, coyotes, and other wildlife in Colorado.


Brought national attention to federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services’ annual indiscriminate killing of millions of native wildlife.


Halted dozens of logging projects to protect wildlife, rivers, and wild and scenic lands.


Formed as Forest Guardians to protect the Mexican spotted owl from logging threats.