On May 6, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a gray wolf extermination bill into law that allows hunters, trappers—and even paid private contractors—to slaughter up to 90% of the wolves in Idaho.
The new law permits the killing of wolves by various cruel and unethical means, including night hunting with night-vision equipment, aerial gunning, and hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. In addition to letting individuals kill as many wolves as they want, the new law authorizes year-round wolf trapping on private lands, including during the season when pups and females are most vulnerable.
This new Idaho wolf extermination law is only possible because ten years ago this month federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections were stripped from gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern Utah via a rider attached by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) to a must-pass budget bill.
This undemocratic move a decade ago—which blocked any judicial review of the rider—opened the floodgates for widespread wolf killing in the northern Rockies. Over the past few years, state “management” of wolves in the northern Rockies has included Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) hiring a professional hunter-trapper to go into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to slaughter wolves and IDFG conducting aerial gunning operations to butcher wolves in some of the most remote roadless federal wildlands remaining in the lower-48 states.
More recently—during a 12-month period—hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies killed 570 wolves in Idaho, including at least 35 wolf pups. The state of Idaho also allows a $1,000 “bounty” paid to trappers per dead wolf, including wolves killed deep within some of America’s largest and wildest Wilderness areas.
The dire situation for wolves in Montana is much the same. Fresh off revelations that Governor Greg Gianforte did not have a valid license when he trapped and shot a collared Yellowstone wolf, Gov Gianforte has signed numerous draconian bills to slaughter more wolves. New barbaric laws in Montana allow hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves, allow a wolf “bounty,” extend the wolf-trapping season, permit strangulation neck snares, and authorize night-time hunting of wolves on private lands and baiting of wolves.
The vicious situation facing wolves in Montana and Idaho proves that the gray wolf still needs federal ESA protections. As we warned ten years ago, state “management” of wolves essentially amounts to the brutal state-sanctioned eradication of this keystone species.
WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed a lawsuit ten years ago in an attempt to overturn this undemocratic, spiteful wolf rider because we believed the wolf delisting rider violated the U.S. Constitution. While our lawsuit wasn’t successful because Congress simply closed the courthouse doors, the on-going attempts to decimate wolf populations in Idaho and Montana warrant national outrage and action.
State ‘management’ of wolves in Idaho and Montana harkens back to an era when people sought to exterminate wolves altogether, and nearly succeeded. These types of actions were not only deplorable in the early 1900s, but they have zero place in science-based management of a keystone species in 2021, especially in the midst of dual nature and climate crises.
President Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and Congress must take immediate action to restore federal Endangered Species Act for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states—including in the northern Rockies—before it’s too late.
We must not abandon wolf-recovery efforts or allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push these iconic species back to the brink of extinction.
While the existential plight of the polar bear losing its critical habitat to climate change is well known, fewer of us are aware of a similar predicament facing one of the most iconic and beloved species in our backyard: the Joshua tree.
Already stressed by a changing climate, the pre-historic Joshua tree has been pushed even farther toward the brink of impending extinction by two recent events. During last summer’s devastating California wildfire season, a three-day wildfire furiously swept across the Joshua tree range, dealing a cruel blow to an already imperiled species. The blaze burned 43,273 acres—25 percent of the contiguous Joshua tree forest—that included roughly 1.3 million of the iconic trees. With the proliferation of highly flammable non-native grasses, coupled with a warmer and drier climate, such fires have been forecast to occur with more frequency and intensity in the decades to come.
Though they are long-lived, hardy desert plants, Joshua trees only thrive within a narrow window of environmental conditions. In the decades ahead, the land where those conditions will exist will shift far faster than the trees themselves will be able to naturally move through germination. To ensure the survival of these slow-moving plants, we need to protect their current and future range both by generally addressing greenhouse gas emissions and by specifically curtailing damaging human activities—such as off-roading, overgrazing, or building large-scale energy projects—in places critical to their survival. The most effective way to protect this habitat is by placing the Joshua tree on the list of threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
This leads to the second devastating blow to the Joshua tree in recent years: the 2019 decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to deny a petition to list the Joshua tree as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, scientists had abundant evidence that increasing temperatures were already causing the species’ range to contract. Climate models show this loss could become significantly worse over the next few decades as prolonged drought takes hold and the frequency and intensity of wildfires increases. In several of the most current climate models, the zone of appropriate climate for the tree will shift drastically by century’s end and, in the most severe scenario, we will witness a 90 percent reduction of its distribution in its range starting in 2070. Despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s standard to employ the “best available science,” and despite the clear mandate of the Endangered Species Act to protect both flora and fauna from extinction, the federal government decided to bury its head in the desert sand, ignore the evidence, and conclude that the Joshua tree had “enough resiliency” to survive the years ahead.
The Joshua tree, along with the plants and animals that depend on it and the many nature lovers that enjoy being near it, need the Fish and Wildlife Service to reverse its decision. The stakes could not be clearer: inaction means that, within many of our lifetimes, Joshua Tree National Park may very well lose the park’s namesake.
To avoid such a lamentable day, WildEarth Guardians is challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service in court. You can lend your support to our lawsuit by urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to take action. We must act swiftly by listing the Joshua tree under the federal Endangered Species Act and, more broadly, by acting to substantially curb greenhouse gas emissions. Such action will give these ancient desert dwellers a fighting chance to survive.
To view this protected post, enter the password below:
It had seemed for the past half century that perhaps the worst of wolf killing was finally over. After centuries of methodic extermination had nearly completely wiped the animals out of the lower forty-eight, government agencies, scientists, and the general public began to see wolves not primarily as threats to private property, but rather, as invaluable ecological assets that stabilized the ecosystems relied upon by many in the West.
In 1974, the gray wolf was one of the first imperiled species to receive federal protections under the newly-passed Endangered Species Act, As wolves were subsequently reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid 1990s, and thus began migrating to regain their historic range, they slowly began to recover.
A series of recent events across the country make clear this work of wolf recovery has never been in greater jeopardy. In January, the Trump administration finalized the removal of gray wolves from the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act and, within a matter of weeks, we witnessed a disturbing new chapter in the nation’s history of needless and irresponsible wolf killing.
In Wisconsin, just a few weeks ago, over 27,000 people applied for an ill-conceived hunt during the wolves’ mating season that, in only three days, left 216 gray wolves dead. Shocked state officials had to call off the hunt prematurely, but not before the three-day slaughter led to 82 percent more wolf deaths than the state had allocated for the entire hunting and trapping season.
Meanwhile, in Montana, a state in which wolves lost Endangered Species Act protections in 2011, not by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service), but by a political act of Congress, the federal delisting emboldened the state to up its efforts to eliminate wolves from the landscape. In the past month, the Montana Senate passed a bill allowing for private bounties for dead wolves and the Montana House passed a bill expanding hunting and trapping seasons (and allowing snares) in an effort to further reduce wolf populations. The traps and snares, which often prolong an animal’s death, are indiscriminate and dangerous not only to wolves but also to non-target species. In a recent six-year period in Montana, for example, at least 350 non-target animals, ranging from mountain lions to pet dogs, were caught in traps. Montana’s recent laws to incentivize and further enable wolf hunting are not simply inhumane, they severely threaten to undo gray wolf recovery efforts and destabilize ecosystems.
These recent activities follow on the heels of a similarly unsettling example of failed state-level wolf management in Idaho, where wolves have also been delisted since 2011. There, over a recent twelve-month period, trappers, hunters, and state and federal agencies killed an astounding 570 wolves, including at least thirty-five wolf pups as young as four weeks old. These wolves, some of whom died of hypothermia in traps or were gunned down from helicopters, represented nearly sixty percent of the total estimated wolf population in the state at the end of 2019. This high number of wolf kills directly reflect the state’s wolf policies: Idaho recently increased the legal limit of wolves an individual can kill in a year to thirty, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game currently funds wolf bounty programs in the state.
Taken together, the examples of Idaho, Wisconsin, and Montana give us all the evidence we need that state-led management does not ensure the protection and recovery of gray wolves.
This horrifying slaughter of wolves in just a few states—based not on science, but on fear and hatred for a long persecuted species—is why WildEarth Guardians has joined a broad coalition of groups across the country to challenge the Service’s decision to delist wolves in court. Wolves have not recovered in the West and the decision to delist them goes against the intent of the Endangered Species Act, which not only mandates the federal government to forestall the extermination of gray wolves but also, crucially, to promote their full recovery. Although this law has played an enormous role in preventing the wholesale loss of gray wolves in the contiguous US, its work to ensure their continued survival and recovery, as these recent examples in Montana, Idaho, and Wisconsin make all too clear, is far from finished.
To let the work of gray wolf recovery go unfinished would be a tragedy hard to tabulate. Gray wolves are a keystone species that play a critical role in the ecological health of their historic range. Being listed under the Endangered Species Act has allowed gray wolves to begin to rebound in the upper Great Lakes region, yet their recovery there does nothing for the populations of gray wolves throughout the West, where the animals remain largely absent or underpopulated in their historic range. For example, in Oregon and Washington, estimates indicate less than 150 wolves in each state while in Colorado, a location in which wolves roamed across all landscapes in the 1800s through early 1900s, has only reported sightings of a handful of lone wolves in the last two years. The example of success in the upper Great Lakes region should not be used to dismantle wolf protections, but rather, to illustrate the continued need for those protections throughout the country where wolf populations remain extremely vulnerable. Only ongoing federal protections, based on scientific data, will guarantee gray wolves a continued and healthy future in this country. To that end, please urge the Biden administration to restore Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves.
As our nation reckons with its story of conquest, recent killing sprees of gray wolves in the remote forests of Wisconsin or the northern Rockies should not go unnoticed. The brutal and bloody history of gray wolves—along with other native megafauna such as bison—in our country is inextricably tied to the larger history of colonization and violence that continues to shape our society. Our country has a deep history of White settlers demonizing the animals in folklore and frontier mythology and equating Native Americans to wolves and other animals within the broader project of colonization. Seen in this light, recent wolf hunts such as what we recently witnessed in Wisconsin are not merely mismanaged debacles, they are part of a much deeper, far more tragic, story. “Wolves symbolized the frustrations and anxieties of colonization,” as historian Jon T. Coleman has written regarding wolf history in this country, “and the canines paid in blood for their utility as metaphor.”
As we are painfully aware, the history of colonization, and of White frustrations and anxieties surrounding colonization, is ongoing. Gray wolves, sadly, may continue to be part of the story. But gray wolves, and the unsound policies and unethical practices aimed at killing them, also present a way to dive deeper into the nation’s history of colonization and violence in search of ways to reconsider a better future. Wolves are “living reminders of colonization,” in Coleman’s words, that “embody an unbroken history of conquest worth pondering and protecting.” As the nation grapples with its history, protecting the gray wolf is not simply about ensuring healthy ecosystems; it is also about preserving a living historical monument to our nation’s violent past and reaffirming a commitment to rise above that legacy of conquest.
A western icon and the namesake of Joshua Tree National Park in California, the Joshua tree’s spiny majesty has dominated Mojave Desert landscapes for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the tree’s inability to withstand the effects of climate change means it may not be around for the next hundred unless we take action now.
Reasons to save the Joshua tree
1. People love it.
From the 2.8 million visitors who flock to Joshua Tree National Park every year—including an estimated 300,000 rock climbers—to the band U2, the surreal beauty of Joshua trees captivates people worldwide.
2. Joshua Tree National Park without the Joshua tree is just “national park.”
That just sucks for a name.
3. It’s a closer relative to tequila than to trees.
The Joshua tree isn’t really a tree at all—it’s a giant yucca and a member of the Agave family.
4. Giant sloths were its biggest fans.
The species lived through the Pleistocene, when its fruits were food for giant sloths. Native Americans used the Joshua tree’s leaves for baskets and sandals and ate its flower buds and seeds. Westbound Mormons allegedly named the tree after a biblical story that mentioned Joshua, his hands outstretched. Generations later, Westerners and visitors alike continue to marvel at this strange plant.
5. We’re killing it with climate change.
Joshua trees are adapted to cold winters, hot summers, and little precipitation. With the southwest drying and warming due to climate change, most climate models agree that Joshua trees will lose up to 90 percent of their habitat in the next century.
6. It’s a moth’s best friend and a bird’s last refuge.
The Joshua tree is the product of an amazing symbiosis. Yucca moths pollinate and lay their eggs in Joshua tree flowers. As the babies grow, they eat Joshua tree seeds. Neither tree nor moth could reproduce without the other.
The tree is also a wildlife haven: 25 bird species nest in it, lizards use it for shelter, and mammals rely on it for food.
7. It’s old school.
While it’s hard to tell a Joshua tree’s true age, as it has no growth rings, trees may live over 300 years, making them probably the oldest living things in the American southwest desert.
8. It’s a slow plant in a fast world.
Joshua trees reproduce slowly. Their generation time is estimated to be between 20 and 50 years. Therefore, if we want to conserve them for future generations, we’ll need to start now.
They’re slow movers, too. The Joshua tree depends on rodents to disperse its seeds, but the rodents don’t move far from the trees. This means that when climate change threatens its habitat, the Joshua tree can’t easily expand its habitat to higher/colder/more hospitable ground.
9. It really needs our help.
Climate change, higher temperatures, longer droughts, and larger and more frequent fires are already taking their toll on Joshua trees, which need wet and cold periods to thrive and take decades to recover from fires.
Thankfully, WildEarth Guardians has a plan to protect the Joshua tree, and it starts with petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect it under the federal Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, the Service denied the petition in August 2019, so in November 2019 Guardians took the Service to court.
As our lawsuit makes its way through the court system, you can support Joshua tree conservation by urging the federal government to reconsider the Service’s denial of Endangered Species Act protections for the Joshua tree.
Download and share this infographic!
Download a PDF version of this Joshua tree infographic or click-and-drag the image below to your desktop. Then share on your social networks to spread the word about this incredible, imperiled plant! Here’s a sample social media post you can use:
A western icon, the Joshua tree has dominated Mojave Desert landscapes for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the Joshua tree’s inability to withstand the effects of climate change means it may not be around for the next hundred unless we take action now: https://guardiansaction.org/JoshuaTree
Representative Deb Haaland’s nomination by President Biden to lead the Interior Department represents an historic opportunity to drive the systemic change the natural world, our climate, and our country so desperately need.
If confirmed, Haaland—an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo—would be the first Indigenous person to run any Cabinet-level department in the history of the United States.
The full Senate vote to confirm Representative Haaland will be Monday, March 15, so we’re asking you to contact both of your senators today.
Unfortunately, Biden’s most historic Cabinet nomination could also be his most imperiled. That’s because senators in the back pocket of the dirty fossil fuel industry simply don’t want a climate justice activist and protector of public lands at the reins of the Interior Department. Which is why we’re asking you—imploring you—to speak out on behalf of Haaland’s confirmation today.
Representative Haaland is a steadfast champion of bold climate action, environmental justice, Tribal rights, and protection of public lands and endangered wildlife.
In Congress, Haaland has been at the forefront of issues central to the climate and nature crises that the Interior Department must address. The Interior Department must stop the plundering of public lands, protect endangered species, implement policies that nurture an ethic of wildlife coexistence, protect 30% of all lands by 2030, and expand and deepen protection of national parks, monuments, and cultural sites.
Representative Haaland is exactly the visionary leader America needs to guide the Interior Department toward justice, equity, conservation, and environmental protection at this pivotal point in history. Her bold vision to address the nature and climate crises is precisely why some senators—and the resource exploiters bankrolling their election campaigns—adamantly oppose her leading the Interior Department.
They’re saying she’s too radical. But Haaland is merely committed to the bold and just path of transitioning our nation off our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
Confirmation of Representative Haaland to be Interior Secretary would be a monumental step forward for Indigenous rights, climate action, environmental justice, and protection of public lands and threatened wildlife. In these times we need bold leadership, so please join me and urge your senators to support and confirm Representative Haaland to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior.
On January 14, WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed suit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service challenging the premature stripping away of federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the entire lower 48 states. The 11th hour move by the Trump administration means gray wolves are now once again in hunter’s and trapper’s crosshairs. We refuse to accept this atrocity and are fighting by all legal means to overturn the decision and restore protections for gray wolves.
Wolves belong and they need our voices and our actions.
WildEarth Guardians has stood as a champion for the voiceless and the vulnerable for over three decades and has regularly fought so that gray wolves, other native carnivores, and hundreds of imperiled species have a chance to fully recover and thrive.
Over the past year, tens of thousands of you have signed our petitions, sent letters, and called officials to demand protection for wolves. You have stood with—and beside—us. As we look at the work ahead of us in 2021, I also ask you to stand with us again and consider supporting Guardians’ Wolf Defense Fund. I have high hopes of overturning this outrageous decision and it’s going to take time, effort, and significant resources for us to win—even with a new administration.
Guardians pledges to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to reverse the heinous decision to delist wolves and hand their fate to states and people that wish to once again see wolves slaughtered, trapped, and hunted—instead of revered, understood, and welcomed across the wilds of the American West.
Please stand with us again today, and be prepared to take action again soon on behalf of wolves.
On January 4th, gray wolves lost federal Endangered Species Act protections. The reckless decision by the Trump administration applies to all gray wolves in the lower 48 states despite the lack of scientific evidence showing true recovery across gray wolves’ historic range. WildEarth Guardians and our partners are currently working on our legal challenge, which will be filed later this month. For now, management of wolf populations has returned to individual state wildlife agencies, some of which are already reinstating hunting and trapping season on wolves.
Tragically, the state of Idaho offers a graphic example of what state “management” of wolves may look like across the American West. Wolves in Idaho lost federal Endangered Species Act protections in 2011 and today an individual may kill up to 30 wolves per year in Idaho. According to an analysis of records obtained by Western Watersheds Project, hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies killed 570 wolves in Idaho during a 12-month period from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Included in the mortality are at least 35 wolf pups, some weighing less than 16 pounds and likely only 4 to 6 weeks old. Some of the wolves shattered teeth trying to bite their way out of traps, others died of hyperthermia in traps set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, and more were gunned down in aerial control actions. The total mortality during this period represented nearly 60 percent of the 2019 year-end estimated Idaho wolf population.
The recovery of gray wolves could be a heroic success story, but it will be cut short if this stripping away of federal Endangered Species Act protection stands. We can’t abandon fragile wolf-recovery efforts and allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push these iconic species back to the brink of extinction without a fight. Please support Guardians’ Wolf Defense Fund with a gift today and help us ensure gray wolves have a future.
Then sign this petition urging the incoming Biden administration to immediately take action on January 20 to halt the impending slaughter and begin the process of restoring Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves. After you sign the petition, make sure to share it with your family, friends, and networks.
We’re in this for the long haul. WildEarth Guardians fights for the Wild—and with you at our side, we will protect and defend wolves.
Earlier this fall, we sounded the alarm about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plan to trap and remove critically endangered Mexican gray wolves from the wilds of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico at the behest of livestock producers.
Despite the fact that fewer than 170 Mexican gray wolves live in the American Southwest, the very agency tasked with recovering endangered lobos was considering trapping and removing wolves from the Sheepherders Baseball Park Pack and the Pitchfork Canyon Pack, which call the Gila National Forest home.
Thanks in large part to all the Guardians who took action, we are pleased to report that no wolves were captured or harmed and that the livestock are no longer in the area!
The Mexican gray wolf—also known as the lobo—is the smallest subspecies of gray wolf. It is uniquely adapted to the arid environments of the American Southwest and northern Mexico, its historic range. Wolf-eradication programs nearly succeeded in eliminating the Mexican wolf from the landscape by 1970. Click here to learn more about these incredible, but endangered animals, and what WildEarth Guardians is doing to protect and defend Mexican gray wolves and the habitat they need to survive.
As promised, WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the Trump administration’s decision to prematurely strip gray wolves of federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections across the entire lower 48 states. The notice, filed on November 6, starts a 60-day clock, after which Guardians and our coalition will file a lawsuit in federal court.
The most recent data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and its state partners show an estimated 4,400 wolves inhabit the western Great Lakes states, but only 108 wolves in Washington state, 158 in Oregon, and a scant 15 in California. Nevada, Utah, and Colorado have had a few wolf sightings over the past three years, but wolves remain functionally extinct in these states. These numbers lay the groundwork for a legal challenge planned by a coalition of Western conservation groups.
“As we’ve seen over the past week, counting and numbers are not a strength of the Trump administration,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “No matter how you try to spin the data, wolves do not even inhabit 20 percent of historic range. This is not true recovery under the Endangered Species Act and a clear violation of the law.”
In delisting wolves, USFWS ignores the science showing they are not recovered in the West. The USFWS concluded that because in its belief there are sufficient wolves in the Great Lakes states, it does not matter that wolves in the West are not yet recovered. The ESA demands more, including restoring the species in the ample suitable habitats afforded by the wild public lands throughout the West. Wolves only occupy a small portion of available, suitable habitat in Oregon and Washington, and remain absent across vast swaths of their historical habitat in the West, including in Colorado and the southern Rockies.
The restoration of gray wolves could be a heroic success story, but it will be cut tragically short if wolves lose further protection under the ESA now. We can’t let fragile wolf-recovery efforts to be stalled and allow states, hunters, and trappers to push the species back to the brink of extinction without a fight. Please support Guardians’ Wolf Defense Fund with a gift today and help us ensure gray wolves have a future.
One other thing you can do is sign this petition urging the incoming Biden administration to immediately take action on January 20 to halt the impending slaughter and begin the process of restoring ESA protections for gray wolves. After you sign, make sure to share the petition with your family, friends, and networks. Thank you!