Our brilliant staff are leading the charge to protect wildlife, safeguard Western forests, and strengthen our movement

March 18, 2024

Every spring under the rainy skies of the Willamette Valley, thousands of activists and attorneys arrive at the University of Oregon in Eugene for a flurry of education and inspiration in our collective fight to protect the Wild. Here at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), our collective passion for safeguarding the Wild takes center stage. This year, we’re proud to say that WildEarth Guardians’ wins, along with the exceptional staff driving them, made a significant impact and deeply resonated throughout the community. 

Jennifer Schwartz honored for two decades of hard-charging conservation litigation 

“Here’s to calling it like it is and keeping big, old trees standing,” said Jennifer Schwartz in her acceptance speech.

Senior Staff Attorney for Guardians’ wildlife program, Jennifer Schwartz, received well-deserved recognition for her “willingness to sue the bastards” from Oregon Wild, one of Guardians strong partners in the Northwest. You’d be hard pressed to find a better lawyer for the environment than Jennifer. Jennifer’s legal feats have protected some of the West’s wildest places and most vulnerable species – think wolves, grasslands, and old growth forests. The Wild is fortunate to have Jennifer’s passionate litigation on its side!

Read more about Jennifer


Using every legal tool available to protect threatened grizzly bears

Lizzy Pennock, Carnivore Coexistence Attorney, presenting at PIELC

Our job is to use every legal tool available to hold our government accountable to protecting the West’s wildlife and wild places. By shedding light on Guardians’ recent legal victory in Montana that halted wolf trapping in grizzly bear habitat, Lizzy Pennock, Carnivore Coexistence Attorney, is showing the next generation of wildlife guardians how to win for the Wild. At PIELC, Lizzy presented to a packed room about our ongoing Endangered Species Act case filed against the state of Montana, which aims to curtail the indiscriminate traps jeopardizing the federally-threatened grizzly bear population. With leaders like Lizzy forging the path, Guardians will continue to be an unapologetic defender of grizzlies – and all wildlife in the West.

Strengthening our movement by allying with organized labor 

Cecilia Garcia (Sierra Club, Progressive Workers’ Union), Rae Min Lee (RVC Seattle), Mireille Bejjani (Slingshot), Danny Noonan (Breach Collective), and Erica Prather (left to right)

Erica Prather, Greater Gila Arizona Advocate, presented a myth busting, truth telling panel that, despite a Sunday morning slot, was standing room only and was heralded as one of the most interesting and meaningful PIELC panels… ever. The name of the panel alone should give you a sense of why: “Unions are the Mycelial Network of the Environment Movement.”  Erica brought together folks who organized workplaces across the country, from small nonprofits to large green NGOs, to discuss the wave of organized labor sweeping the environmental movement. The panel dove into the exciting potentials of a unionized environmental movement, including our ability to foster deeper connections with frontline communities, leverage class consciousness, and make the conservation movement increasingly relevant through partnerships with the working class.

Connecting the dots for communicating conservation 

At a session organized by our partners at Earthjustice and Oregon Wild, some of the West’s leading conservation organizations gathered to share and learn the latest trends in communications practices, from TikTok to traditional newspaper reporting. Guardians’ Communication Director Jon Schwedler took to the floor to share insights from a recent poll we commissioned on how voters in Colorado and Montana feel about the use of every legal tool to protect imperiled wildlife, old growth forests, and the Endangered Species Act. These insights inspired an extremely productive discussion that will help Guardians and other organizations make persuasive arguments for the conservation of wildlife and wild places, which is particularly critical in this election year.

If you missed us at PIELC this year, come find us next year for more inspiring conservation wins and thought-provoking conversations!

About the Author

Hannah Smay | Communications Manager, WildEarth Guardians

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