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 Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held hearings to consider Representative Haaland’s nomination on February 23rd and 24th, and the full U.S. Senate could vote any time after that, 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.
A secretive and little-known federal agency that uses your tax dollars to trap, snare, poison, and aerial gun our nation’s iconic wildlife to “manage” them wants you to greenlight multiple new proposals that would allow even more bloodshed.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services—the federal animal damage control agency—released three environmental analysis documents of its latest plans in Montana and Oregon, in which the agency aims to kill more of the West’s iconic carnivores. That’s more mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, and other wildlife that will die needlessly and suffer senselessly.
We can’t let them carry out these brutal plans, ignoring the best available science and compassion to appease the wishes of the agriculture and ranching industries. To stop this war on wildlife we need you to raise your voice and spread the word. The only reason this agency has a “license to kill” is that not enough people even know of their existence. Wildlife Services operates in darkness and our job is to shine a spotlight on their brutal practices and demand they adopt an ethic of coexistence by using non-lethal tools.
Wildlife Services routinely uses cruel and indiscriminate killing tools such as sodium cyanide bombs to carry out its barbaric mission—and much of their work occurs on America’s public lands to benefit the livestock industry. Times have changed, but this agency has not.
We urgently need your voice to tell Wildlife Services that the cruel, indiscriminate killing of wildlife is unethical, ineffective, and out-of-step with the beliefs of the vast majority of the American public.
State by state and county by county WildEarth Guardians has been working to demand Wildlife Services adopt a new ethic of coexistence. We intend to win this war and end cruelty on public lands. But we can’t do that without you.
Will you join Guardians in the fight to change the killing culture of Wildlife Services by taking a moment to be a voice for coexistence and urge Wildlife Services to stop using brutal methods? Please go to our landing page where you can find talking points, deadlines, and links to the regulations.gov portal to make these important comments. Deadlines are February 19 for Montana and February 22 for Oregon.
Making a difference for lions, bears, coyotes, and many other species starts with you, so take action as soon as possible to demand that Wildlife Services use non-lethal methods for wildlife management.
While our attention rightfully has been focused on the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the Trump administration has quietly been attacking our country on another front. On January 13th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to assist the National Rifle Association to recruit and train hunters to shoot wildlife.
It is fitting to ask, why would an agency whose mission is to “preserve and protect” our nation’s wildlife assist the NRA in recruiting more hunters? The answer is simple. The number of hunters in all states have steadily declined since 1982 when they peaked at 17 million. Today only 4% of the population hunts. In contrast some 86 million people participated in wildlife watching, an estimated 20 percent increase just from 2011 to 2016.
Which means those remaining hunters—most of which are white men, including Trump’s own trophy-hunting children—find their political influence declining as well. Growing the number of hunters is a shameless attempt to protect what remains of their influence at the cost of protecting wildlife.
This parting gift to industry is, of course, not an isolated incident. In the period between New Year’s Eve and today, dozens of anti-environmental regulations and decisions have been issued. Among those is one that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating pollution from the oil and gas industry, another that permits convicted criminals to graze their livestock on public lands, leasing 550,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil and gas industry at fire-sale prices, and others that weaken habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act.
These regulations and decisions continue the trend of enriching the powerful, primarily white men, and locking in the ability of corporations to exploit people and the planet. This pattern began on Day One of Trump’s administration, when public health, safety, and environmental protections all came under attack.
But the pro-hunting bias of Trump’s Interior Department stands out even for what will likely be viewed as the most environmentally hostile administration ever. That’s because the partnership with the NRA is amplified by a suite of other policies that promote hunting at the expense of wildlife. Those policies include the creation of an illegal wildlife council stacked with trophy hunters that allowed more endangered African lions and leopards to be hunted and the most dramatic expansion of hunting in national wildlife refuges ever that will allow more bobcats, foxes, and cougars to be hunted.
It will take years of effort from the Biden administration, Congress, the courts, and ordinary citizens to undo this and the other damage done during the last four years.
There was a time when our nation’s conservation of species and their habitat were actually led by hunters. In fact, the primary reason our national wildlife refuge system exists is the vision, hard work, and funding of hunters. But wildlife policy should no longer be driven by the needs of hunters. Not when more Americans, in urban and rural communities, want to coexist with wildlife—because we believe they are sentient beings with whom we share this planet.
The push to enlist more hunters and elevate hunting across America is a desperate attempt to entrench policies that are hostile to native carnivores, endangered species, and, frankly, almost any species of wildlife that you can’t hunt. Without hunters, the social and political arguments for these policies fade away.
The NRA knows this. Trophy hunters know this. If the number of hunters continues its historic level of decline the social and political arguments for hunters to drive wildlife policy will lack credibility. A desperate attempt to recruit more hunters is one way to preserve their influence.
While I am grateful for the vision and commitment of hunters that contributed to conservation years ago, it’s now time to turn the page on the past. Our nation’s wildlife doesn’t need more hunting, they need less. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should no more be helping the NRA than the Rebel Alliance should be helping the Death Star.
Finally, I cannot help but see parallels between the pro-hunting policies that primarily promote the interests of white men and the actions of the angry, violent mob that attacked our nation’s Capitol. Much like the number of hunters, the Republican party is keenly aware that their demographic—namely, white people—has shrinking political influence. The voter suppression enacted by conservative state legislatures across the country testifies to this fact. Frederick Douglass wrote that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” We must demand the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nullify this agreement with the NRA and the suite of other policies that elevate hunting over the needs of wildlife.
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.
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!
UPDATE (December 11, 2020): Thank you to everyone who wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the last month demanding that they not harm these wolves. Our understanding is that the livestock are no longer in the area and no wolves were captured or harmed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—the agency tasked with recovering critically endangered Mexican gray wolves—is working right now to trap and remove wolves from the wilds of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico at the behest of livestock producers who are grazing non-native cattle on public lands for private profit.
Wolves from the Sheepherders Baseball Park Pack or the Pitchfork Canyon Pack are blamed for killing around 3% of one rancher’s herd of cows. In comparison, the federal government has killed about 3% of the entire wild Mexican wolf population this year in the name of social tolerance. It seems that tolerance only goes one way.
Help us stop this wolf removal! Send an email to email@example.com today. Tell U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service why you support wild wolves over destructive, non-native cattle. Explain that the agency’s job is to protect and recover endangered Mexican gray wolves, not cows. Tell them to stop the removal of these endangered, wild lobos—fewer than 170 of which live in the American Southwest.
Please keep your comments civil, as hostile language is counterproductive. When you email, it is helpful to copy us (firstname.lastname@example.org) so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can’t claim to not have received your note. Thank you for taking action to defend lobos!
Learn more about this situation here.
In a major win for wildlife in Montana, WildEarth Guardians settled our lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in May, after the federal program agreed to severely curtail its slaughter of native wildlife and the use of cruel tools such as snares, traps, and poisons in Montana.
For those unfamiliar with Wildlife Services, this multimillion-dollar federal program annually kills an average of about 1,500,000 native wildlife species nationally. Relying on taxpayer dollars for its killing campaigns, Wildlife Services often uses costly methods such as “aerial gunning” to launch preemptive strikes on thousands of native carnivores—before there has been any actual conflict with humans or livestock.
In Montana alone, over just the past three years, Wildlife Services has reported killing 152 wolves, four grizzly bears, 52 mountain lions, 18 black bears, 320 foxes and more than 20,000 coyotes.
Wildlife Services has not considered the environmental impacts of its “predator damage control” program since the mid-1990s, and even then, it relied on science that dated to the 1970’s and ‘80’s. And the killing has continued unabated. More current science establishes that lethal management is ineffective at preventing conflict. And the significant impact on ecosystems of such indiscriminate killing of carnivores calls into question the entire program. In the midst of the sixth great extinction, during which species are disappearing at an alarming rate, it is irresponsible and unethical to use indiscriminate and cruel tools to kill wildlife. This is particularly true when coexistence practices exist that are proven to be effective at conflict prevention.
Our May 2020 settlement with Wildlife Services requires a new environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in Montana and, meanwhile, requires the following protections:
No killing in Wilderness areas, Wilderness Study Areas managed by the Forest Service, Wild & Scenic River corridors, Research Natural Areas, or Areas of Critical Environmental Concern in Montana;
No killing of cougars or black bears on any federal lands;
No more M-44s (sodium cyanide bombs) on any public lands, or private lands in 41 of 56 Montana counties;
No more lethal gas cartridges can be used to destroy denning wildlife like coyotes, fox, or prairie dogs on public lands;
Increased public transparency.
Over the last five years, litigation by Guardians and partners against Wildlife Services has resulted in settlement agreements and legal victories in Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, all curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and making the program accountable for its activities. And we are not stopping now. Guardians has active litigation against Wildlife Services in Colorado and Idaho, and we are continuing to monitor Wildlife Services’ activities across the West, ready to take on the federal killing program in order to protect vulnerable wildlife.
Montana’s majestic wildlife is part of what makes this state so special. Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate, inhumane, and pointless killing of wildlife cuts against the values of most people. It’s time to bring this killing program out of the shadows, into this century, and start working towards true coexistence with the wildlife that makes Montana wild and wonderful.
When I awoke in the darkness, the first thing I felt was the soreness in my quads and calves. I wasn’t sure if it was the muscle pain or the hunger pains that had woken me. Maybe it was something else entirely—something stirring outside my tent.
That’s what it was—a sound. Not just any sound, but a sound I’d never heard before. At first, it was indiscernible. After a moment, it was unmistakable. Almost like a song. One voice, then two… then three… then, an entire chorus.
I tried to focus, but my damn sleeping bag was making all those crinkly sounds as I tried to settle my body into a comfortable position. When I was finally still, the singing grew clearer—not just the sound, but the echo as well. The echo of wolves—howling in some place that seemed, at once, both far away and very near.
It was the fifth, and last, night of our backpack into the Gila Wilderness. I had been longing to hear those sounds for many years and perhaps, in my wishful greed, to catch a sight of the wolves themselves. My only regret from that night is that I didn’t wake my wife, Terry. But if you knew her particular relationship with sleep, you’d understand.
Weeks later, the wonder I felt that night transformed into sadness and outrage, as I realized those were the howls of the Middle Fork Pack, wolves that roamed the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Gila River.
I was saddened because I knew both the alpha female and alpha male of that pack only had three legs. Each victims of human cruelty—in one case, a gun shot wound. In the other, a steel trap.
Nevertheless, these incredible animals persisted and persevered for nearly a decade. They successfully raised wolf pups in the wild canyons, pine forests and remote grasslands within and on the edge of the Gila—America’s first wilderness.
In a sense, those of us who care about protecting these wolves are working with one of our legs missing as well.
Seemingly every day over the last four years, the Trump administration has systematically dismantled the environmental safety net. Regardless of who is elected in November, we will be working at a greater disadvantage than we were just four years ago.
But, if we persevere, as the wolves did in the face of adversity, we can still accomplish much. I believe that if we work half as hard as the wolves do, we can accomplish twice as much as we ever have.
We also can each learn something else from the Middle Fork wolves. It’s that there is strength in numbers and that we are more resilient when we look after every member of our pack. There’s likely no way a three-legged wolf could survive on its own, but working together they overcame significant obstacles.
When I think about how many Guardians there are in the world—and by that I simply mean compassionate people who protect the vulnerable—I am heartened by people’s commitment. But I am also aware that we are simply not enough people. We need more Guardians. I want every one of you reading these words to reach out to people you are not convinced share our value of protecting the vulnerable.
You may ask “why?” It’s because there is so much more at stake. It’s not just environmental protection that is being eviscerated, it is democracy itself.
But if we are to ultimately persevere in our quest, whatever it may be, we cannot focus only on the injuries from the past. I can’t imagine the Middle Fork wolves spent a moment in self-pity about their wounds. What propelled them forward was a fierce clarity about their purpose of protecting their pack. What will propel us forward is a compelling vision for the future. A key part of that vision is the recognition that we all share more in common than we usually think.
By focusing on what we have in common, rather than our differences, we can increase the size of our pack. In doing so, we will increase our political power and our ability to advocate on the behalf of the Middle Fork pack and the natural world in general. Doing this will require expanding our circle of compassion.
Perhaps it is naïve, but I believe the practice of compassion can be a compelling force. Many times, I have written about the need for society to expand the circle of compassion to include those who have historically been marginalized—women, minorities, the disabled, and the entire natural world. If we, as environmentalists, can expand our circle of compassion to include new, unlikely allies—I believe we will be more effective in achieving our goals.
Though the Middle Fork Pack sadly no longer endures, I hope their story becomes a part of your story about how we can be more resilient during these uncertain times. Let their story remind us that, with perseverance, we can overcome great obstacles.
Let us remind ourselves that we are members of a pack with room to grow, both in numbers and compassion. With that unified purpose, we will find strength and comfort, from ourselves and from each other, and together we will accomplish great things.
Last month, hundreds of thousands of birds dropped dead out of the skies of New Mexico, in a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood disaster movie. The world is facing an extinction crisis, a biodiversity collapse. Events such as this are likely to become more common.
The rapid loss of plants and animals across the globe is nothing new, scientists and conservationists have been raising the alarm for decades. But this nightmare—literally happening in our backyards—puts the catastrophe in stark relief and should make every New Mexican rise up to demand action from state leadership. New Mexico is one of the most biodiverse states in the union. We host both subtropic species and subarctic species and our range of ecosystems, plants, and critters is part of our cultural heritage and our economic future. Biodiversity is an asset worth bending over backwards to protect.
But who or what protects the great biodiversity of New Mexico? The agency theoretically tasked with this consequential job is the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. But the Department is primarily interested in promoting hunting and propagating species of interest to hunters and anglers. Most state wildlife agencies are the same in terms of focus.
Game and Fish sometimes does a praise-worthy job at protecting wildlife, but often policies have little to do with conservation. Oryx brought in from Africa in the late 1960s to excite and lure hunters with the prospect of “exotic species” are now imperiling Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. The Department pays six figures a year to private trappers who kill native mountain lions for the expressed purpose of recovering desert bighorn sheep. But then the Department turns around and sells tags to hunt said bighorn sheep. Millions of non-native trout are dumped into New Mexico’s waterways even while native species like Cutthroat and Gila trout struggle with shrinking ranges.
Emails promoting hunting and fishing are seemingly the agency’s bread and butter. An April email instructed the public on how to make “Dutch oven doves.” And of course, the Department allows unlimited killing of furbearers like bobcats, foxes, badgers, and beavers by private, commercial trappers, even encouraging children to take part.
New Mexico needs a Department of Wildlife. Or a Department of Biodiversity. Or an agency by any name that is willing to put its resources into staving off the collapse of our wildlife rather than sharing recipes for sandhill crane (another recent offering from Game and Fish).
To be clear, this is not a criticism of ethical subsistence hunting—in a good year my family has Chama-area elk in the freezer. And on many weekends, I can be found casting flies on our gorgeous rivers and streams. I know NMDGF staff who are knowledgeable, hardworking, and true conservationists. Moreover, the Department alone doesn’t dictate its mission. Funding and laws guide the agency towards serving hunters and hunting. And the Department doesn’t even have management authority over many species.
An overriding question for most state wildlife agencies is, “how do we stay relevant?” This was a focal topic at the 2019 Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies meeting. The answer has never been more obvious: protect biodiversity. There are literally birds falling out of the sky en masse. Our ecosystems are at risk. What New Mexico urgently needs is an agency that will confront the most relevant crises of our generation.
Game and Fish has had plenty of time to shift its focus. Climate change and extinction are not exactly new. For years, advocates have encouraged the Department to protect all wildlife, to diversify its funding to achieve this new and necessary goal, and to put long-term economic and ecological health over—or at the very least alongside—hunting. Our wildlife and plant populations don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer.
The federal government is fast-tracking annihilation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s mission has changed under Trump towards supporting hunting and fishing, developing energy and natural resources, and “protecting people and our border.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency in charge of protecting imperiled species, requested a stunningly paltry $9 million to list and delist endangered species and designate critical habitat. Most of that money appears to be spent de-listing species that have not yet actually recovered. Hunting was even expanded in National Wildlife Refuges this year as the backlog of species needing protection and headed towards extinction grows even longer.
New Mexico needs to lead. Our State Wildlife Action Plan is underfunded. Resources are spent recruiting hunters instead of recovering imperiled wildlife. Yes, money is hard to find. And yes, there are challenging sidebars that need to come down. Change takes time. But our wildlife does not have time.
The Department and our elected leaders need to do some soul searching. New revenues, new ideas, new stakeholders, and a new direction have never been more important.
We need a wildlife conservation agency, not more bird recipes.
As wildfires burn in parts of California and the Pacific Northwest, we could all use some good news like the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voting to ban wildlife killing contests by a 7-2 vote on September 11, 2020. The ban prohibits wildlife killing contests involving any species that could be killed in unlimited numbers, or without a “bag limit,” including coyotes. This is great news for Washington where, over a five-year span, killing contests resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 coyotes.
Because of wildlife advocates like you, coyotes will be spared from this fate for years to come. A special shout-out to over 2,000 WildEarth Guardians members and supporters who told the Fish and Wildlife Commission to end these cruel wildlife killing contests.
Not only is this win great news for Washington, it represents tremendous momentum in our efforts to end the war on wildlife across the West. Washington joins Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Vermont in banning this brutal blood sport. Notably, five of these bans happened in the last 18 months alone—demonstrating strong public support for the ethical treatment of wildlife moving with unstoppable energy throughout the country.
We thank the wildlife commissioners and committed wildlife advocates who demanded an end to these contests across a broad swath of the American West. But our fight isn’t over. Guardians believes that killing contests have no place in our society and envisions a future in which wildlife killing contests are banned nationwide.
Thank you to all who helped drive this over the line in Washington and in other states! Slowly but surely, we are stopping the cruelty and remaking the American West into a hospitable place for native wildlife.