Few wolves have captured the hearts of the public like “Journey,” who in 2011 traveled more than 1,000 miles to become the first wild wolf to set foot in California in over a century. But what’s not public knowledge is that Journey’s journey nearly ended before it began, with a bullet from a federal wildlife-killer’s gun—and that it was WildEarth Guardians Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Schwartz who helped spare him and his siblings from slaughter.
As Staff Attorney and Program Director at the Hells Canyon Preservation Council in eastern Oregon, Schwartz had a front-row seat for the conflict between the state’s nascent Imnaha Pack and the ranchers operating in the area’s heavily grazed national forests. Nevertheless, she was aghast when the state authorized the execution of two members of the pack, absent any environmental analysis—even though there were as few as 13 wolves in the entire state at the time. She argued an emergency motion in federal court that halted the kill order, securing Journey’s place in wolf lore and marking the first of her many victories for wildlife to come.
Hearing the Call of the Wild
Schwartz’s own journey to an environmental litigation career began inauspiciously in her birthplace of Los Angeles. Despite growing up in an urban environment, she developed a deep passion for wildlife, particularly wolves, at an early age. A move to the then-undeveloped outskirts of Tucson, Arizona for her mother’s work with American Airlines brought Schwartz’s first close encounters with the Wild outside her front door. As an L.A. transplant, she marveled at tarantulas emerging after monsoons, rattlesnakes sunning on roads, and squadrons of javelinas cruising through the Canyon del Oro wash she frequented with her dogs. As her move coincided with the early 90s southwest development boom, she also witnessed a lot of desert habitat bulldozed for strip malls and subdivisions.
These experiences culminated in her first nonprofit conservation gig: seventeen and a senior in high school, she joined the canvassing crew for the Center for Biological Diversity (just a small, regional organization at the time).
“Suddenly I was a political activist, going to protests and helping organize demonstrations for stopping logging on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and building support for Mexican wolf and jaguar recovery in the southwest,” she says. She even tagged along to one of the first releases of Mexican gray wolves on the border of Arizona and New Mexico in 1998.
At the Center, Schwartz discovered that environmental law could be a legitimate career path. So after earning a B.A. in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, she was off to Portland, Ore., to earn her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School.
Speaking for the Trees
Schwartz left her job at the Hells Canyon Preservation Council in 2012 to have her son. For a time, she was both a parent and a solo practitioner, filing timber sales litigation to end logging in old-growth forests throughout the Pacific Northwest. The work was rewarding, but grueling, so she jumped at the chance to join Guardians in 2019 and litigate on behalf of our Wildlife Program.
Schwartz returned to her desert roots for her first case at Guardians: advocating for the desert Southwest’s iconic Joshua trees.
In 2015, Guardians petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list both the western and eastern species of Joshua tree as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, citing climate change’s devastating effects on the species. The Service denied the petition, prompting a lawsuit from Guardians.
As she dug into the case, Schwartz “quickly realized there’s a whole body of climate science the Service just summarily dismissed, including five peer-reviewed, published models, all showing that by the end of this century, Joshua trees would lose up to 90 percent of their current habitat.”
Guardians won the suit on all counts by proving that the Service had ignored this science when it refused to list the Joshua tree. As a result, the Service now has to grapple with the dire forecasts of these studies and issue a new listing decision for the tree this coming January—offering the beleaguered species a much-needed shot at survival in the decades to come.
Championing Coexistence for Native Carnivores
Outside of her Joshua tree litigation, Schwartz has been hard at work spotlighting the atrocities of the secretive federal wildlife-killing program, Wildlife Services. The program indiscriminately slaughters millions of native wildlife each year, largely at the behest of livestock producers, and “justifies” the extermination with spurious, archaic science. In states like Montana and New Mexico, Schwartz and Guardians have dragged Wildlife Services’ activities into the light and before the courts; as a result, the program has agreed to curtail or end some of its most heinous killing methods, from body-gripping traps to cyanide bombs, and to cease “predator control” activities on specially designated public lands.
Yet these wins, though impressive, are only temporary, lasting as long as Wildlife Services takes to prepare new environmental analyses. Schwartz has therefore opted to take a different tack in her more recent litigation, broadening her focus to also address the role of federal land managers—mainly the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management—in responsibly managing the livestock grazing across federal lands that are prime habitat for native carnivores.
It was Schwartz’s beloved wolves who inspired this strategic shift—in this case, 31 wolves massacred in response to cattle depredations on the heavily grazed Colville National Forest in the state of Washington. The state circumvented Guardians’ 2015 court victory stopping Wildlife Services from killing wolves in Washington by instead having their own state wildlife agency step in. So Schwartz “suggested we focus our litigation on directly addressing the Forest Service’s mismanagement of livestock grazing on national forests, since that’s the primary driver of wolf mortality in Washington.”
In a similar vein, Schwartz filed another case this past December that targets federal agencies’ mismanagement of livestock grazing practices in Nevada—and their eagerness to permit killing sprees of native wildlife across the state, including on more than 6.2 million acres of Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas.
She envisions a future where, instead of condemning wolves simply trying to live their lives, federal land managers require grazing permittees to adopt common-sense, science-backed practices shown to effectively reduce the risk of wildlife-livestock conflicts, such as employing range riders; keeping herds bunched up in open, defensible spaces; avoiding turning out of vulnerable young lambs and calves; and keeping livestock away from wolves’ denning areas.
“Native wildlife put the ‘Wild’ in Wilderness. Killing them on the behalf of commercial livestock producers just doesn’t jibe with that,” she says.
Fighting for the Future
Three years into her time at Guardians, Schwartz’s enthusiasm shows no signs of waning. She lights up when she describes her latest case, safeguarding and recovering the critically endangered black-footed ferret.
Her son, now nine, is always willing to lend an eager ear. Schwartz, in turn, is always “thinking about his generation, how to ensure a biologically rich, diverse world for them to enjoy,” she says. “Having a child makes me fight harder for that future.”
If her past achievements are any indication, we—and the Wild—can expect fine things from that fight.
Please consider supporting the work of Jennifer and our entire legal team with a gift to our Legal Defense Fund.
In a few hours—when the clock strikes midnight in New Mexico—traps, snares, and poisons will be banned on public lands across the Land of Enchantment. Roxy’s Law officially goes into effect tomorrow.
This victory took well over a decade of relentless pressure to achieve, and it belongs to everyone who took part in this campaign over the years. This includes our incredible allies in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition. And it probably includes you if you are reading this.
WildEarth Guardians envisions a world in which wildlife is protected and respected, a world where an ethic of coexistence is the norm and exploitation and cruelty are banished, a world where native foxes, bobcats, beavers, badgers, and wolves are revered for their ecological roles and honored for their intrinsic value.
And with your continued help—and generous support—we will work to make that world a reality.
On April 1, 2022 Roxy’s Law—a ban on trapping on New Mexico public lands more than a decade in the making—goes into effect after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed it last year. Nearly 32 million acres of public lands, including state-owned parcels, national forests, and Bureau of Land Management holdings will be free not only of cruel leghold traps, which can amputate and maim, but also from strangulation snares, body-crushing traps, and deadly poisons like sodium cyanide bombs. From the beautiful Latir Peak Wilderness to the incredible Florida Mountains, vast amounts of New Mexico will be safer for people, pups, and wildlife alike.
Along with Roxy’s Law, New Mexico has recently taken other meaningful steps toward protecting wildlife. In 2019, the state banned gruesome coyote-killing contests, events that reward indiscriminate and senseless massacres. Currently, the state is rolling out its plan for projects to protect wildlife from vehicle collisions along heavily used movement and migration corridors.
These are signs of a new era across the Land of Enchantment. An era in which coexistence is the norm, exploitation and cruelty are waning, and native foxes, bobcats, beavers, badgers, and wolves are revered for their ecological roles and honored for their intrinsic value, not persecuted as inconveniences. We are leaving behind nearly two hundred years of primarily viewing wildlife as merely something to slaughter and sell.
Still, New Mexico isn’t yet the beacon of wildlife management that it should be:
- A memorial urging the federal government to tackle the biodiversity crisis died without a vote on the state Senate floor last month.
- Our Game Commission has been a merry-go-round as the governor appoints and fires commissioners at her whim. Yet she has let a year elapse since the tragic passing of David Soules without appointing anyone to the conservation position on the commission. Without stability on the commission, it’s unclear where needed leadership will come from.
- The state is still on record opposing Mexican wolf restoration in the Southern Rockies, where lobos belong and where scientists say they need to live in order to fully recover.
Congress seems poised to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (co-sponsored by New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich), which could provide funding to states to protect nongame wildlife. But our wildlife agency doesn’t even have the authority to manage or protect many species, including the Gunnison’s prairie dog, the Rio Grande sucker, and 23 of New Mexico’s 26 bat species, just to name a few. And they don’t want that responsibility; they want to continue to focus on the fraction of animals that are pursued and killed by sportsmen.
RAWA could be the inflection point New Mexico needs. Bold leadership is required to modernize the Department of Game and Fish. So, let’s remember there’s a lot of work still to do and progress to be made:
- We need a comprehensive state wildlife agency more invested in protecting all wildlife, not focused only on game species like elk and nonnative rainbow trout.
- We need a wildlife agency that sees all New Mexicans as stakeholders, not one that caters only to the minority of New Mexicans, who, like me, buy hunting and fishing licenses.
- We need a wildlife agency with the authority, will, and revenue to manage and protect the many wildlife species in our state.
Roxy’s Law alone is worth celebrating, of course. But it also represents a critical marker on New Mexico’s path to reimagining how we perceive and live with the wildlife that makes this place special. Let’s take the next step and push for a state wildlife agency that serves all the people and wildlife of New Mexico.
We’re in a bit of a mood today…
First, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new coalition in Nevada that will end gruesome wildlife-killing contests and cruel trapping on public lands. Silver State Wildlife will harness the power of regional and Nevada-based groups and activists to drag wildlife policies into the 21st century with a healthy dose of science, ethics, and common sense.
The Silver State is a nexus between amazing wildlife, biodiversity, and public lands—and archaic wildlife policy that prioritizes killing over conservation. Nevada’s 96-hour trap check window is by far the longest and cruelest in the American West. This coalition will change that and more.
But did I mention we’re in a mood?
The Nevada Department of Wildlife just fined a family of hikers who freed the suffering fox pictured above from a leghold trap. Nevada trappers pressured the department into threatening to arrest the Good Samaritans and fining them over $700!
When people are punished for helping the vulnerable and unprotected, that is wrong. The laws need to change. Coexistence and compassion need to lead. And the exploitation of wildlife needs to be left in the dustbin of history.
Here’s what you can do:
• Sign the petition to end public lands trapping in Nevada.
• Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, calling out the Nevada Department of Wildlife for penalizing an act of compassion at the behest of trappers. Please keep your letter under 250 words and submit it to the following papers:
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Sun (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reno Gazette Journal (email@example.com)
Reno News & Review
Nevada Appeal (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Nevada Independent (email@example.com)
The Ely Times
Pahrump Valley Times
The Record-Courier (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Humboldt Sun (email@example.com)
Sierra Nevada Ally (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for doing your part to end the war on wildlife in Nevada. And stay tuned for more ways to get involved.
Speak up for Wolves: Sign the Petition!
The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. After lobos were nearly wiped out, reintroduction began in 1998 in remote areas of New Mexico and Arizona. Since then, recovery has been slow and turbulent. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided that the only wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. was not essential to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves as a species. Guardians and our allies sued, and in 2018, a U.S. district judge told USFWS to go back to the drawing board to write a new management rule for the lobo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently seeking comments on that new Mexican wolf management rule. This is our last chance to make sure the agency gets recovery right, so please submit your comment!
Tweet for Lobos!
We’ve assembled eight ready-to-go tweets, complete with inspiring images and a link to the petition. All you have to do is “grab-n-go” to help raise awareness and make a big difference in the defense of the lobos! P.S. These work great on Facebook, too!
#Wolves keep the Gila wild! Celebrate the 97th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico by urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Gila’s most iconic resident—the critically endangered Mexican #wolf: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos #KeepItWild #StopExtinction
Lobos are essential! Mexican gray #wolves are critical ecosystem influencers in the desert Southwest. They keep prey populations healthy and in balance, protect riparian and aquatic resources, and indicate the health of entire ecosystems. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Humans are the largest obstacle to recovering Mexican #wolves. Along with illegal trapping, poaching and vehicular mortalities, politically motivated ‘recovery’ plans have put lobos in a precarious position. Take action to help get #wolf recovery right: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Real recovery for Mexican #wolves would include three distinct, but connected populations. Along with lobos‘ current range in the Greater Gila Bioregion, the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies are identified as prime habitat. Help make it happen: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Mexican #wolves in the wild are, on average, as related as brothers and sisters. Though lobos numbers are slowly increasing, the greatest indicator of a successful #wolf recovery effort is the genetic health of the wild population. Support real recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
To truly recover Mexican gray #wolves a new management rule should be based on the best available science and prioritize enhancing the genetic diversity of the wild lobo population. Raise your voice to make sure Mexican #wolf recovery is done right: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Did you know that the Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is the most endangered gray #wolf in North America and one of the most endangered carnivores in the world? Tell the @USFWS we need a new management rule that will actually recover Mexican #wolves: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Almost a century after Aldo Leopold shot a Mexican #wolf in the Gila, only 186 of these wolves exist in the wild. The fierce green fire he saw in the wolf’s eyes still flickers in the #wolves who roam the Greater Gila today. Help support full recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
Amplify YOUR Voice for Wolves: Write a Letter to the Editor
Letters to the editor (LTE) are a great way to share your perspective and encourage others to speak up for lobos. It’s easy, fast, and effective—all you have to do is write your short perspective on why wolves deserve more protections and why the southwest needs more wolves. Be sure to mention that U.S. Fish and Wildlife is taking public comments on wolf management right now and comments can be submitted here: https://guardiansaction.org/lobos
You can submit your letter to your local outlet, or if you are not from the region, submit it to a statewide outlet. Here are direct links to submission forms, note that different papers have different word count limits.
- Albuquerque Journal
- Santa Fe New Mexican
- Las Cruces Sun-News
- Silver City Daily Press
- Silver City Sun-News
- El Defensor-Chieftain (Socorro, NM)
- Sierra County Sentinel (Sierra County, NM)
- Arizona Daily Star
- Arizona Republic (Tucson area)
- East Valley Tribune (Phoenix area)
- Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff area)
- White Mountain Independent (White Mountain area – closest to wolf country)
- Pinal Central (Casa Grande area)
- Daily Courier (Prescott area)
LTE Talking Points: Here are key elements of a new lobo management rule that will help truly recover and restore Mexican wolves to their historic range. Please use these talking points as a guideline for drafting your individual LTE, but what’s most important is that your voice and your reason for wanting lobo recovery come through. So, please speak in your own words, but make sure to emphasis the fact that a new Mexican wolf management rule must:
Rescue Mexican wolves from a genetic bottleneck
- A real genetic rescue entails releasing adult wolf pairs with pups until the wild population of lobos demonstrates adequate genetic diversity improvements. Releasing a set, limited number of wolves into the wild is not a real genetic objective—very few wolves who reach breeding age actually contribute their genes to the wild population.
Allow lobos to roam throughout their historic range
- Preventing wolves from crossing arbitrary political boundaries like Interstate 40 is unacceptable. In order to truly recover, Mexican wolves need access to suitable habitat in the southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon region.
Designate lobos as “essential”
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the only wild population of Mexican wolves in the U.S. as “non-essential” to the recovery of the species in the wild. Designating this population as “essential” is common sense and crucial to recovery.
Reduce wolf-livestock conflict
- Wolves are native carnivores highly adapted to the desert southwest. They should not bear the burden of livestock-wildlife conflict when non-native cows are grazing on public lands without protection.
On the December 21 winter solstice —the darkest day of the year—Montana wildlife officials opened additional areas to wolf trapping across the state, including in wilderness areas and public lands bordering Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
This decision is sickening, and yet it doesn’t even begin to describe the whole horrific situation that imperiled wolves and grizzly bears have faced all year in Montana. And the stakes are only getting more dangerous as a long, cold winter descends.
This year’s start of the wolf trapping season was delayed in parts of western Montana to give grizzly bears more time to safely reach their dens. Despite this, threatened species like grizzlies were not spared from the brutality of indiscriminate trapping.
Earlier this fall, a family of grizzly bears living near Glacier National Park stumbled upon two traps—baited with a dead fox—that a trapper set to kill coyotes. The traps snapped shut, gripping tightly around the feet of two bears. Wildlife managers were able to dart and release one bear, but it’s believed the other trap may remain on the second grizzly bear’s foot. Trapping is a disgusting practice—using a dead fox to bait a trap just makes it more atrocious.
Grizzly bears and wolves need our help, otherwise more and more will suffer this same fate.
By New Year’s Eve, wolf trapping will be opened statewide to satisfy the bloodlust of Montana’s Republican governor and state legislators, who are intent on brutally slaughtering up to 450 wolves—40 percent of the state’s wolf population—in just six months. Forty percent!
Thankfully, most grizzly bears should be denned up by then. Grizzly Bear 399—the world’s most famous mama bear, pictured above—recently made it safely into her Greater Yellowstone den with her four cubs. Sadly, a den is no refuge for some of Yellowstone’s most famous wolf packs. Fifteen Yellowstone wolves have already been slaughtered this year, including seven from the Junction Butte pack, the most-watched wolf pack in the park.
Winter is a time for nesting, denning, and reflecting. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but it also marks a return of the light.
At WildEarth Guardians, we want to end the year focusing on gratitude and all the successes we accomplished together for wildlife and wild places. But we can’t shy away from telling the dark stories that continue to happen. We are standing up against these injustices and for the beauty and wildness that still remain.
Above all, nature is cyclical and we know that our fight to protect the natural world will contain both moments of despair and darkness and moments of exhilaration and exuberance. Just as the winter descends, spring will also rise.
In a few months, Grizzly Bear 399 and her four cubs will emerge from their den. Let’s do everything in our power to ensure that the world they walk out into is one that values coexistence and reveres the cycle of life.
When you think of America’s congressionally designated wilderness areas, what comes to mind?
Intact ecosystems teeming with native wildlife and wild places, where people can find solace and solitude in an increasingly fast-paced world? Or aerial gunning, poisoning, and trapping of native wildlife?
The answer should be clear. But unfortunately, the federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services uses our tax dollars to deploy neck snares, foothold traps, “cyanide bombs,” and sharpshooters in helicopters to kill hundreds of thousands of native animals on public lands—even in protected wilderness areas.
We have waged a relentless battle to end this war on wildlife. Over the last five years, litigation against the USDA Wildlife Services by WildEarth Guardians and our allies has resulted in legal victories in Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Washington—each of them curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and increasing its accountability to the public.
But we aren’t resting until we end this rogue program’s war on wildlife once and for all.
Earlier this month, Guardians and Western Watersheds Project launched a lawsuit challenging Wildlife Services’ expansion of aerial gunning, poisoning, trapping, and shooting of bobcats, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, beavers, and other wildlife on public lands across Nevada, including the potential for killing wildlife on over six million acres of wilderness and wilderness study areas.
With your help and your support, we will have the financial resources we need in 2022 and beyond to defend vulnerable wildlife and ensure that public lands are a refuge for native animals. Can I count on your donation today? As an added bonus, your donation will be matched by another generous supporter.
While society has evolved to understand the importance of native species as a key part of ecosystems and the need for coexistence with wildlife, Wildlife Services continues to rely on antiquated practices from a bygone era when many animals were pushed to the brink of extinction. We demand better from the federal government.
Public lands across the American West are critical for preserving biodiversity and enabling native ecosystems to thrive—they are meant to be wildlife havens, not slaughtering grounds. We must not let the federal government use our tax dollars to slaughter the very creatures that epitomize the wildness of these landscapes.
With your help, we will achieve even more in 2022 to stop Wildlife Services in its tracks! Help fuel our continued fight for coexistence in the new year by making a MATCHED gift of $50, $100, $250 or more to Guardians today.
In February, while investigating a mortality signal from a wolf collar, Oregon state troopers found the dead bodies of the entire Catherine Wolf Pack, three males and two females. A whole family brutally murdered, likely at the hands of one or a few people.
Tragically, this was just the start of a series of disturbing and still unsolved deaths. In the past five months, police have recovered the bodies of eight wolves in eastern Oregon, all poisoned.
Now the police, having exhausted all leads, are turning to us for help to find the perpetrators of this crime. WildEarth Guardians and our partners are offering a $43,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a person or persons in the deliberate fatal poisoning of these wolves.
Offering this reward is one critical way we can bring justice for wolves. We are also fighting in court and pressuring the Biden administration. Please donate today to our Wolf Defense Fund so that we can secure the future of the gray wolf.
With your help, we’ve spent the past year working to protect wolves and endangered wildlife across the country. We’ve seen progress, to be sure—in October Guardians successfully forced Montana to restrict wolf snaring on millions of acres of public lands—but there is still so much work to be done. Any day now, a decision could come down in our national litigation challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reckless decision to strip gray wolves of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection across the lower 48.
We’re also planning for the future and turning our attention to Colorado, where, thanks to a people-powered ballot initiative, the state must reintroduce gray wolves by the end of 2023. Colorado has only the next two years to develop a reintroduction and management plan for wolves, and that means Guardians has a job to do. We must ensure this plan includes the highest protections for wolves, so that entire wolf families aren’t killed in the face of the slightest opposition.
Anyone with information about the eastern Oregon wolf poisonings should contact the Oregon State Police Tip Line at (800) 452-7888 or email TIP@state.or.us. Callers may remain anonymous.
For people outside of Oregon or without information to share, you can help us spread the word about this heinous crime. The more people who are aware of this, the more likely it is that Oregon police receive critical information to catch the perpetrator before more wolves are lost.
We are sickened, outraged, and heartbroken by this crime. And we are committed to this fight for the long run.
In 2015, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Rockies, and Friends of the Wild Swan—represented by attorney Matt Bishop at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC)—entered into a settlement agreement with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP) to ensure that appropriate protection measures would be implemented to avoid the incidental killing of Canada lynx in the state.
Notably, the settlement agreement provided that snares should not be permitted in two designated lynx recovery zones, areas that represent a significant chunk of western and southwestern Montana, including areas outside of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
In August 2021, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission—clearly ignoring the terms of the settlement—issued new regulations for the killing of wolves that not only expanded trapping in the state but, for the first time, allowed for the use of snares to kill wolves throughout the state.
In late September 2021, our attorney from WELC sent a letter to the state of Montana informing it that its new regulations on wolf snaring were in defiance of this lynx legal settlement. We also threatened to renew litigation if changes were not made immediately. In response, in late October, the Montana Fish and Commission was forced to update its wolf regulations and not allow wolf snaring on public lands in two large regions of Montana where wolves reside, generally the expansive public lands south and west of Glacier National Park and north of Yellowstone National Park (see map below). This late re-convening of the Commission and issuance of the new rule came about as a direct result of our 2015 settlement and our threats to sue the state of Montana for its clear breach of settlement terms.
As a result of our 2015 settlement, and tenacity in ensuring its terms were continued to be followed by the state, Guardians and our allies were able to secure a huge, impactful win for wolves on the ground in Montana right now. Distribution maps indicate that many of the wolves in Montana live in the “designated lynx recovery zone” areas.
As snaring is one of the easiest (and cruelest) ways for hunters to kill wolves, the late regulatory change—a month in advance of trapping season—will, undoubtedly, save the lives of hundreds of wolves this year. While we continue to fight on multiple fronts to relist wolves in the Northern Rockies, thanks to the creative strategic decisions made by WELC, in partnership with Guardians, Alliance for the Rockies, and Friends of the Wild Swan, we are able to have some on-the-ground impact for wolves this year.
This is just another example of how we are leaving no stone unturned to save the gray wolf. And we can’t do this work without you. We’re extremely grateful that over 8,700 Guardians members and supporters spoke up this summer when the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission was accepting public comments. You and your fellow Guardians have also given generously to our Wolf Defense Fund, providing us with the critical resources needed to wage this battle for wolves in the courts, in Washington, D.C., and at the state level across the West. Together, we will save wolves.
My activist side made its first strong appearance in my life after I learned about industrial fishing as a senior in high school in Littleton, Colorado. As I researched ocean conservation for my senior project, I couldn’t believe what I was learning. For example, a longline, which is one method of large-scale fishing, stretches for two or three miles and is covered in thousands of hooks that kill non-target species like dolphins, turtles, seabirds, and sharks as it is dragged through the open ocean. Shark finning (imagine a shark being hauled out of the water and having its fins sliced off and then being tossed back into the water to drown or be eaten alive) accounts for up to 100 million sharks killed annually. Fin meat fetches a high price (at least $300 or $400 per pound), making it economically disadvantageous to lug an entire body back to land when one can just cut off the fins. I didn’t know much then, but I knew at a gut level that this wasn’t right.
Learning about the need for environmental advocacy as a teenager changed the entire course of my life. Getting involved in advocacy at a young age gave me direction and purpose; it connected me more to my community, from the people down my street to the people across the world. In my family, I earned the nickname “captain environment.” At the time, I had no idea that ten years in the future I would be a lawyer with WildEarth Guardians, using the law to give a voice to the voiceless and protect our wildlife, our wildlands, our water, our atmosphere, and our air.
My journey was windy and uncertain, but my passion never wavered. Every step was somehow connected to the bigger question always in my mind: how can we protect the planet long-term? In the intervening years between the start of my advocacy at 17 and law school, I worked as a side-walk fundraiser with Greenpeace, at a few vegetarian cafés, in an analytical laboratory, traveled the world working on small farms, and became a professional scuba diver. Each adventure helped me connect to the planet in a new way, and to different people and cultures. I wanted to understand how others interacted with the natural world and figure out how to communicate with them effectively. I attended protests, created petitions, made speeches at rallies, created advocacy-based Halloween costumes (my favorite was a Zom-bee, raising awareness for the plight of bees), and talked to people in my community about the small actions we can each take every day to help.
The outrage I felt senior year of high school when I learned about the pillaging of our oceans led me to a degree in Marine Science in Hawai`i. I wanted to be an ocean advocate more than anything, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. I thought science was the way but after four years knew that was not my path—I was frustrated with where I felt science ended and where policy-making began. Three years later, I ended up at Lewis and Clark Law School getting a degree in environmental law. I had no idea what I was doing—I barely understood how the government functioned. But I used the skills I had been cultivating. I networked, I got to know the people who were doing what I wanted to do, I learned and researched, and this led me to WildEarth Guardians.
My work with Guardians started during my second year of law school. I attended an event and met the Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner for Guardians. I offered to volunteer my time, and she took me under her wing and quickly introduced me to our Wildlife program litigator. My work with them included helping with a legal complaint focused on protecting several imperiled fish in Colorado, doing research for other wildlife lawsuits, attending hearings at the state capital building, and lobbying state representatives for pro-wildlife legislation. I learned about the opaque federal agency called Wildlife Services that wholesale kills our native wildlife, reminiscent of the destruction caused by longline fishing. I read the data about our federal government killing hundreds of thousands of animals annually, and again, I felt outraged—how could this be happening?
WildEarth Guardians is suing Wildlife Services all over the west because Guardians knows that this should not be happening. Working as a lawyer with Guardians gives me the chance to be a voice for the voiceless, and that is why I came back as a legal fellow after graduating from law school. I knew when I was 17 years old that there was no path for me other than one where I stand up to the powers that be and say this isn’t right.
If you are reading this and you have ever felt the outrage I am talking about, and had the urge to scream, “this isn’t right!” I want you to know that the path of environmental advocacy does not need to be traditional, does not need to be linear, does not need to be your career, and does not require fancy degrees. Environmental advocacy can be a conversation in a living room with a friend about something that matters to you, it can be attending a protest or sharing information on social media. It can be becoming ‘captain environment’ in your household and telling someone not to leave the water running in the sink. We are environmental advocates because of what it means to each of us individually, and your unique individual contribution is what the world needs, however and whenever that takes shape.