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Let’s take a moment to celebrate good news for wolves in Washington! Thanks to guardians like you, our message was heard loud and clear: Washington’s iconic wolves deserve protection and non-lethal management should be prioritized.

During the past two weeks, more than 8,500 of you took action by urging Governor Jay Inslee to approve our appeal for better wolf management rules. On September 4, Gov. Inslee heard you and directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to initiate a new rulemaking process to develop “clear” and “enforceable” measures designed to avoid the repeated slaughter of wolves in the state, which has resulted in 34 dead wolves since 2012.

Rulemaking is a transparent process which allows for public input. The process also requires that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife consider the use of science-backed, non-lethal measures to deter livestock-wolf conflicts and examine chronic conflict zones where problems have occurred year after year. Washington has the opportunity to be a leader in wolf management and this is an exciting step towards a better future for wolves in the state and across the West.

You and other wolf advocates helped make this victory possible, and your voices will certainly be needed again as we enter the rulemaking process. For today, join us in celebrating this important step toward better rules for Washington’s wolves and know that your continued support and partnership will enable us to keep defending wolves throughout the American West.

In good news for wildlife coexistence, Gov. Jay Inslee has directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft new rules governing the killing of wolves involved in conflicts with livestock. This action reverses the commission’s denial of a petition filed by WildEarth Guardians and our allies in May that called for reform of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s lethal wolf-management policies.

The new rules will address the use of science-backed non-lethal measures to avoid livestock-wolf conflicts. They will likely further examine chronic conflict areas where the state has killed wolves year after year. The state has killed 34 wolves since 2012. Twenty-nine were killed for the same livestock owner in prime wolf habitat in the Colville National Forest. After the Fish and Wildlife Commission denied the wolf advocates’ petition in June, the groups appealed to the governor, who had 45 days to decide whether to deny the appeal or require the commission to create new wolf-management rules.

“Demonstrating a commitment to environmental leadership, Gov. Inslee has put the Department on notice: It’s time for better rules, and public transparency, when it comes to Washington’s iconic wolves. The killing of the entire Wedge Pack this year was unacceptable; it has happened before and it should never happen again,” said Samantha Bruegger, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner at WildEarth Guardians. “A huge thank you to WildEarth Guardians members and supporters who sent Gov. Inslee over 8,500 emails and made a ton of phone calls over the past few weeks. Together, we will end the war on wolves and other native wildlife.”

Read the press release.

State and local officials in southwest Utah are asking the federal Bureau of Land Management to approve the bulldozing and carving of a new 4-lane highway through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The request comes less than a dozen years after Congress designated the conservation area to protect habitat for the imperiled Mojave desert tortoise, which has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1990.

Construction of the highway, known as the Northern Corridor, would harm much of this key habitat for the threatened tortoise. The new highway would also exacerbate impacts of a July 2020 wildfire that tore through 12,000 acres of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, which as the local paper pointed out, impacted desert shrubs, herbs, grasses, cacti, and wildflowers that serve as shelter and food for the threatened tortoise. The truth is that the highway is unnecessary and would increase the already rapid pace of human expansion into southwest Utah.

The Red Cliffs are the northeast extent of the range of Mojave desert tortoise and a stronghold for the species. While these creatures can live up to 80 years, they don’t reach reproductive maturity until around 15 year-old and they are very sensitive to habitat changes, which means that their populations grow slowly. The tortoise’s overall population has long been declining and the Northern Corridor highway would fuel further decline in several significant ways.

The 4-lane highway would permanently restrict tortoises’ ability to migrate within the National Conservation Area, which could lead to the complete loss of local sub-populations. And while federal officials would attempt to gather up tortoises in the path of the highway and relocate them before bulldozers started rolling, the effort would largely serve as PR rather than preservation. Science has shown that re-located tortoises have very poor survival rates and other tortoises wouldn’t be found and would be crushed by heavy equipment during construction.

Utah’s Department of Transportation wants the public to believe the new highway is needed to reduce snarled traffic in rapidly growing St. George. But real-world experience shows us that any short-term reduction in traffic congestion provided by the Northern Corridor would hasten further sprawl around St. George, ultimately offsetting the short-term traffic benefits. And the Bureau of Land Management’s own environmental analysis identifies an alternative route that not only avoids the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area entirely but would be more effective at reducing traffic congestion in the long term.

September 10 is the deadline to tell the Bureau of Land Management to act in the best interest of public lands and threatened wildlife. Click here to ask the Bureau to reject Utah’s request for an unnecessary and harmful 4-lane highway through this desert tortoise stronghold.

The health of native species plays an important role in keeping ecosystems thriving and stable. Each species from ponderosa pines to grizzly bears are essential building blocks for the complexity and beauty of Earth’s ecosystems. Wildlife management initiatives directly affect the structure of these ecosystems. Unfortunately, lethal measures are often the solution for wildlife management.

Lethal practices against large carnivores such as grizzly bears, wolves, and Canada Lynx are expensive and detrimental to the livelihood of the species. These practices are employed when a carnivore is a perceived threat to livestock. Trapping and killing of carnivores in favor of livestock is destructive and ineffective because there are coexistence methods where both carnivores and livestock can thrive.

Because wildlife is managed in the public trust, it is our duty as citizens, leaders, and community members to protect and nurture all wildlife. There are several ways to get involved such as contacting federal agencies or other organizations who create coexistence plans. Another effective way to share your opinions on coexistence management is through public commenting on federal agency action plans that would impact large carnivores and livestock.

An agency is more likely to consider a comment that is clear, concise, and relevant to the proposed action. As a citizen, you have valuable information that the agency can use in its environmental review of the action, and possible to modify the action. Whether you are a scientist, environmental organization member, community leader or a citizen who is interested in wildlife coexistence, your input matters and can shape the agency’s response to wildlife conservation.

Here is a link to a legal memorandum I wrote about effective ways to write public comments about coexistence.

Grace Erispaha is a rising senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota pursuing an undergraduate degree in Economics and Environmental Studies. She interned with the legal team at WildEarth Guardians on wildlife coexistence research.

At their peak, more than 50,000 grizzly bears roamed the Lower 48 States from the West Coast to the Great Plains. After near extermination to only a few hundred bears by the 1930s, grizzly bears in the Continental U.S. were listed as “Threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) on July 28, 1975.

Forty-five years later—on July 8, 2020—the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to maintain ESA protections for grizzly bears living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This momentous ruling is a culmination of years of work by WildEarth Guardians and our allies to protect these magnificent creatures.

Unfortunately, grizzly bears are not out of the woods yet. Grizzlies remain absent from nearly 98 percent of their historic range and the Great Bear also faces continuing threats from climate change, dwindling key food resources, illegal poaching, lack of connectivity among populations, and the negative impacts of roads and railroad tracks fragmenting their habitat. To make matters worse, Montana’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council is finalizing recommendations, which may include support for grizzly bear trophy hunts.

Guardians’ Grizzly Bear Tool Kit is custom made for Grizzly Guardians like you, so please use it to help protect grizzly bears!

Speak up for Grizzly Bears: Sign the Petition!

Tell the Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council that grizzly bears need safe passage and secure habitat, not bullets.

Tweet for Grizzly Bears!

We’ve assembled ten ready-to-go tweets, complete with inspiring images and a link to the petition or other great griz info. All you have to do is “copy-and-paste” these tweets and images to help raise awareness and make a big difference in defense of the Great Bear! P.S. These tweets will work great on Facebook and other forms of social media, too!

Tweet #1

I’m celebrating a big win for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone, and you should be too! The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld #EndangeredSpeciesAct protections for grizzlies, meaning no grizzly bear trophy hunting. Details: guardiansaction.org/griz_win #StopExtinction

Tweet #2

Grizzlies are not out of the woods yet. #Montana’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council is finalizing recommendations that will influence the Great Bear’s future for years to come. Unfortunately, several Council members support trophy hunting. Take Action: guardiansaction.org/grizzlybears

Tweet #3

Threatened grizzly bears face continuing threats from #climatechange, dwindling key food resources, illegal poaching, lack of connectivity among populations, and the negative impacts of roads and railroad tracks fragmenting their habitat. Take action: guardiansaction.org/grizzlybears

Tweet #4

While threatened grizzly bears have slowly come back from the brink of extinction in the Lower 48 states over the last 45 years, these iconic species remain absent from nearly 98 percent of their historic range. Act now for grizzlies: guardiansaction.org/grizzlybears #StopExtinction

Tweet #5 (No Image Needed)

WildEarth Guardians and allies have just dealt the Trump administration another legal loss! Threatened Yellowstone grizzly bears will stay protected by the #EndangeredSpeciesAct and planned trophy hunts remain stopped. #StopExtinction wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/yellowstone-grizzlies-to-stay-on-endangered-list/

Tweet #6 (No Image Needed)

“WildEarth Guardians applauds the decision of the 9th Circuit Court—a triumph of science over politics—in ensuring that Yellowstone grizzly bears are allowed to truly recover and thrive,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director for WildEarth Guardians. wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/victory-yellowstone-grizzlies-to-stay-on-endangered-list/

Tweet #7

Together with their allies, @wildearthguard just scored a big victory for Yellowstone grizzly bears, the #EndangeredSpeciesAct, federal #publiclands, and science over politics. Learn more about this great news: guardiansaction.org/griz_win

Tweet #8

Threatened grizzly bears need safe passage and secure habitat, not bullets! Raise your voice for the Great Bear: guardiansaction.org/grizzlybears #StopExtinction #EndTheWarOnWildlife

Tweet #9

Tell a friend, or ten! WildEarth Guardians and partners just scored a big victory for threatened grizzly bears living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Now let’s tell #Montana that grizzly bears need safe passage and secure habitat, not bullets: wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/victory-yellowstone-grizzlies-to-stay-on-endangered-list/

Tweet #10 (No Image Needed)

Did you hear the great news? WildEarth Guardians and our allies just dealt the Trump administration another legal loss! Threatened Yellowstone grizzly bears will stay protected by the #EndangeredSpeciesAct and planned trophy hunts are off the table. wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/yellowstone-grizzlies-to-stay-on-endangered-list/

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the Trump administration and state of Wyoming’s appeal of a 2018 decision restoring endangered species protections for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears. The original decision halted states’ planned trophy hunts in the ecosystem, which would have harmed other imperiled populations of grizzly bears. WildEarth Guardians, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, one of the plaintiffs and victors of the original lawsuit, played a central role in the appeal process.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana totals about 728 animals, up from its historic low of 136 when endangered species protections were enacted in 1975. In the original case, opponents of federal protections for grizzly bears argued that protections were no longer necessary and that a sport hunting season to effectively manage down the population was justified despite the fact that the population represents only a fraction of its historical abundance, and has yet to achieve connectivity to neighboring populations near Glacier National Park and elsewhere. The recovery of other grizzly bear populations depends heavily on inter-population connectivity and genetic exchange. Absent endangered species protections, dispersing grizzlies essential to species recovery would have to pass through a killing zone outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks where Wyoming and Idaho rushed to approve trophy hunts.

“WildEarth Guardians applauds the decision of the 9th Circuit Court—a triumph of science over politics—in ensuring that Yellowstone grizzly bears are allowed to truly recover and thrive,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director for WildEarth Guardians. “Grizzly bears are an iconic species whose very existence is intertwined with the concept of endangered species protection in the United States. This decision solidifies the belief of numerous wildlife advocates and native tribes that protecting grizzly bears should be based upon science and the law and not the whims of special interest groups, such as those who want to trophy hunt these great bears.”

Read the full press release.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council that threatened grizzly bears need safe passage and secure habitat, not bullets!

As a little kid, I remember flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines and staring entranced at beautiful pictures of wildlife. I was always a kid that enjoyed spending time outdoors, and my fascination with the natural world was reflected in the movies and books I consumed. An avid reader, I plowed through many introductory materials on wildlife, ecosystems, and climate. My favorite movies to watch were National Geographic Kids films on wildlife behavior. Through these materials I became increasingly aware of the looming threats of both climate change and mass extinction of wildlife throughout the globe. As a kid, I actively worried about endangered species and became determined to “save the earth” and the animals along with it.

In fact, I was so concerned about the fate of wild animals that for several birthdays in a row I demanded that my present be an “adoption” of an endangered species. Several organizations at the time welcomed donations to “adopt” an endangered species and in return would send you pictures of an individual animal you had helped to protect. As a young environmentalist, I became the proud protector of a dolphin, wolverine, and seal. At the time, I believed that my adoption would ensure those individual animals lived a long and happy life in the wild, untouched by humans.

I now understand that wildlife conservation is not quite as I had imagined as a little kid. You can’t just “adopt” a wild animal and ensure its protection; I was actually asking my parents to fund broader conservation efforts. In fact, I now understand that wildlife conservation is part of a much larger tapestry of environmental protections that work to combat the climate crisis while simultaneously supporting ecosystem health. This tapestry, in addition to protecting wild spaces from further degradation, also ensures the wellbeing of human communities.

WildEarth Guardians’ Wild Places and Wildlife programs demonstrate the interconnected nature of conservation policies which is why I am so excited to contribute to both programs as an intern this summer. For example, the protection of the Greater Gila Bioregion is a multi-pronged effort. Ensuring the health of that ecosystem requires not only working towards the permanent retirement of grazing permits but also working to protect the Mexican gray wolf. Altering the species composition of an ecosystem is a dangerous game to play, and WildEarth Guardians works to restore ecosystem equilibrium through their advocacy in the region. A healthier Greater Gila bioregion also promises a more resilient landscape. Healthy and resilient ecosystems are key contributors to the overall health of our planet, as well as help to maintain clean air and water in the region.

Likewise, wildlife protection efforts at WildEarth Guardians, such as working with the TrapFree New Mexico coalition, contribute to the overall health of local ecosystems and communities. Wildlife policies that rely on cruel killing techniques like traps and poisons are not ecologically sound and actively ignore the interconnected nature of biological ecosystems. But working to ban cruel wildlife traps in New Mexico not only protects wildlife, it also protects people and domestic animals in the neighboring area. Creating outdoor spaces that are safe to recreate in is equally important. In places as beautiful as the southwest, public lands should be places where locals and tourists can safely and responsibly explore the natural world.

This summer, I hope to meaningfully contribute to both the Wild Places and Wildlife programs at WildEarth Guardians. Since flipping through those National Geographic magazines as a kid my conceptualization of the natural world has changed greatly. As an Environmental Studies major, I now have a better understanding of the complexities of conservation – I know that as an individual I cannot save each and every beautiful animal that roams our wild lands. However, by contributing to WildEarth Guardians’ work in wildlife and public lands, I hope to honor the desire of my younger self to “save the earth” and work towards a future where humans and the natural world can coexist for the benefit of all.

WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and Kettle Range Conservation Group filed a lawsuit on June 17, 2020 to ensure that the U.S. Forest Service protects endangered gray wolves on the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington where livestock ranching activities have incited conflict. This woeful negligence by the federal agency has resulted in the deaths of 26 wolves since 2012, including the total destruction of both the Profanity Peak Pack and the Old Profanity Territory Pack.

Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the Forest Service’s revised Colville National Forest Plan for failing to evaluate how the agency’s federally permitted livestock grazing program adversely affects wolves—a species eradicated from most of the contiguous United States by the 1920s. The groups are also challenging the Forest Service’s approval of cattle grazing for Diamond M Ranch, which is responsible for the majority of wolf deaths on the Colville National Forest since 2012, without requiring any measures to prevent these wolf-livestock conflicts from recurring.

“The blood of these wolves is on the Forest Service’s hands. Just because the agency didn’t pull the trigger, doesn’t mean the agency didn’t supply the gun and ammunition,” stated WildEarth Guardians’ Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner, Samantha Bruegger. “The Diamond M Ranch livestock grazing allotments, on 78,000 acres of the Colville National Forest, have been notorious as the place where wolves go to die. We want to change that and we think the agency can and should demand ranchers who receive grazing permits must coexist with wolves on national forest land.”

Read the press release.

I recently finally began listening to the audiobook of Cormack McCarthy’s The Crossing after incessant urging by my partner, Mark. I had demonstrated some initial resistance, knowing McCarthy’s reputation for grim violence and stark depictions of the depravity of man. But I decided his imagined, if meticulously researched, historical world couldn’t be much more grisly than the current real one we find ourselves in. So I listen. 

I bring all of this up to open today’s blog post because the first few hours of The Crossing revolve around a wolf, a pregnant she-wolf to be precise, making her way through the wild country of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona (the exact location of our Greater Gila campaign!). And she’s being pursued. A young rancher’s son is setting traps for our wolf, as she is the cause of numerous livestock depredations. At last listen, she’d finally been caught, forefoot gruesomely snared in steel jaws, after weeks of out-smarting the trappers. She’s been hog-tied and dragged behind a horse. And I’m not feeling like it’s cause for celebration, in fact quite the opposite. And I think McCarthy’s eerie foreshadowing of her capture is intentionally preparing me to interrogate the metaphor of the wolf, and what she might represent in the American imagination.

There’s no denying that McCarthy is something of a literary genius, his cult following can attest to that, but what most impressed me about the listen so far is his depiction of the wolf. There are whole paragraphs dedicated to her description. And while there is no trace of anthropomorphizing, he manages to render a picture of her so vivid, so alive and beautifully wild, that she becomes perhaps the most compelling character in the story so far. Her experience becomes a deeply felt experience for the reader. To bring such life to a fictional non-human literary presence requires more than just a way with words. I can only conclude that McCarthy must have come to know the wolf in an extraordinary way, in a way, perhaps, we can all come to know the wolf one day.

As an added bonus to my wolf wonderings, it’s Wolf Week here at Guardians (check out our webpage on Wolf Protection and Recovery and our Mexican Wolf Recovery toolkit)! So we, as an organization, have also been thinking about wolves (really since our inception, over 30 years ago), and I have been reading other thoughtful voices who have been thinking about wolves. Because beyond their recently recognized status as charismatic megafauna, the wolf plays into some of my previous weekly themes, namely national mythologies, and ideas about One Health, in addition to the new nation-wide ritual of howling for healthcare workers that takes place every evening.  

Let’s start with the wolf as a player in our national mythology. The enlightening dissertation paper by Gavin Van Horn titled Howling About the Land: Religion, Social Space, and Wolf Reintroduction in the Southwestern United States discusses the various relationships humans have with wolves, both in contemporary and historical contexts. Van Horn attributes the near eradication of wolves in the U.S. in the mid-20th century to the fervent disdain that came ashore with early European colonists, who, as keepers of domesticated animals, saw any and all wolves as vicious, calf-eating monsters. This reputation persisted, and was even elevated with the rise of the venerated cowboy, and the thrill of his brave quest to tame the wild frontier and all the savageness (wolves) that came with it. What I find most worthy of further rumination is the way the wolf violates two American ideals. First, the wolf has no notion of private versus public property, and, as a species with an inherent need to roam great distances, is therefore a common and unwelcome trespasser. Second, the wolf embodies a certain archetype of freedom and wildness, the former which we envy and the latter which we fear. The wolf exists in a state of original liberty and, as Van Horn so aptly observes, their howls become “a reminder of what humans have yet to subdue.”

In another scholarly paper by Martin A. Nie from the University of Minnesota titled The Sociopolitical Dimensions of Wolf Management and Restoration in the United States, wolf reintroduction becomes a lens with which to view shifting attitudes in American social and political spaces through time. I love this idea because it mandates a recognition of the ways we etch our human agendas, both implicit and explicit, onto the landscape and all the other selves that reside there within. As Van Horn suggests, for so long our obsession with that which is “civilized” (i.e. urban sprawls, agricultural fields, domesticated animals) has justified a scorched earth policy to eradicate that which is “wild” (i.e. uninhabited landscapes, unfamiliar cultures, non-domesticated animals), all in service of some constructed notion of progress. 

But how does this tie in to our current moment of pandemic and social upheaval, you may ask? From the perspective of One Health, the wolf is a critical keystone species, one that when taken out of an ecosystem can cause a cascading extinction effect. We saw this with the Yellowstone reintroduction of wolves, as there was an astonishing recovery of habitat and a reestablishing of ecological balance. If we accept as true the concept that our health is inherently tied to the health of our community, our environment, and the planet, then we insist upon a coexistence model in which we share space and resources with other species who serve important ecosystem functions in maintaining that holistic health and wellness.

Furthermore, as Nie posits, when we come to recognize our treatment of wolves, through individual actions, management practices, or restoration efforts, as an expression of our own fears and insecurities, and our own confusion from the slow dissolution of an unproductive national mythology, perhaps we can manage those emotions with more grace and self-awareness. Perhaps we can lean into the challenge of inspecting our own imperfections, our misguided ideologies that lead to skewed perceptions of what counts as valuable. Perhaps we can tenderize our own human-ness, gather the truth of our own vulnerability and co-dependence on that which we may not know nor understand, and step towards a new and brave way of being a human in the world, a human in the world with wolves and bears and other humans, and be grateful to be small and soft and in our own way unsubdued. We howl now because we are afraid, not just of the Coronavirus, but of our own separation, our own loneliness. The stakes have become too high to continue reifying rugged individualism and unfettered growth. We howl now for change, deep tectonic change, for humans, for wolves, for the planet. 

Each week, the Greater Gila Campaign Team of Leia Barnett and Madeleine Carey will share what they are reading, listening to, and watching and how it shapes the connections they draw between the current crisis and their work to conserve large landscapes.

Jean and Peter Ossorio are a team with 153 years of life experience marked by curiosity, appreciation for other life forms, and decades of advocacy for the underdog—including Mexican gray wolves. Here is their story, in their own words. 

Why have we, collectively, spent almost a thousand nights tent camping in Mexican gray wolf country? How did two kids raised in the St. Louis suburbs get there? And why do we spend hundreds of hours a year researching, testifying at agency meetings, and submitting comments—going on now for twenty years—with little discernible impact?

Jean’s path to wolf advocacy was fairly predictable. From her first outing in a wildlife refuge at age six weeks, through a childhood filled with family car camping vacations and raising black widows from their egg case, Jean displayed curiosity and interest in the living things around her. Peter, not so much. His parents’ modest vacations by car took him to the lower 48 states, but outdoors activities mainly consisted of sixth grade summer camp and a mediocre stint in the Boy Scouts. As an adult, Peter’s group camping experiences with masses of other soldiers and diesel-leaking, rut-making, field artillery howitzers created a decades delay in voluntarily camping—this time seeking solitary spaces and natural landscapes.

Jean’s bond with wild canids came not from family pets, but from holding a coyote in 1973 during a visit to a farm that also held several captive gray wolves. As her interest, reading, and knowledge grew, Peter came along as her companion—bringing a growing concern for protecting public lands based on observing the destruction in Vietnam from defoliation, massive bulldozing, and B-52 carpet-bombing causing 15 foot diameter craters in undulating carpets of jungle.

Three years after we moved to New Mexico in late 1995, the USFWS would reintroduce three captive bred Mexican gray wolf families into the wild. We knew the story of their wild great-great-grandparents being deliberately exterminated in the U.S. and most of Mexico—only to be brought back from the edge of extinction by the Endangered Species Act, citizen pressure, and conservation group lawsuits. So, in the fall of 1998, we made a circle tour around the central part of the wolf recovery area in New Mexico and Arizona, hoping to find at least a track. In 1999 we paid a visit to the area along the Campbell Blue Creek in Arizona area and looked at the remnants of the chain link enclosure from which the Hawks Nest Pack had been released. As we were about to hike back to the car, a bark-howl and a fleeting glimpse gave us our first sighting of a wild lobo. Thanks to a chance encounter with a law enforcement agent who had telemetry equipment, we learned we had seen AM 131, previously named “Maska” in captivity.

We thought Mexican gray wolf recovery would take about a decade, with an interim population goal of 100 around 2005. We were wrong. Politically captured by state agencies and subsidized public lands grazing interests, USFWS killed wolves and squandered opportunities to ease the genetic bottleneck caused by so few original founders. We responded by speaking at meetings and writing comments when we would rather have been in the field listening in the dusk for the occasional melodious howl. So we divide our time between witnessing for the wolves and watching for them.  We support over a dozen conservation organizations with what money we can muster, and sometimes as “standing declarants” helping the organization be allowed to represent us and their other members advocating for the wolves in court. WildEarth Guardians stands in the front rank of organizations willing to innovate, litigate, and advocate for our beloved lobos; we have been members for two decades and are excited about their newer, younger staff building toward the future.

Although neither of us is overtly religious, we both were brought up with a strong sense of obligation and responsibility. Peter’s careers as a Field Artillery officer and federal prosecutor nourished an ethic of duty and honor in accomplishing the organizations’ missions. As guardians of national security, the rule of law, or endangered species and the public lands upon which they depend, we have come to realize that there is no such thing as permanent protection—only guarding against loss. So we look to our younger allies in conservation organizations to lace up their boots, spend time in the field, and carry forward the never ending struggle to secure a place for all living things.