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On May 6, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a gray wolf extermination bill into law that allows hunters, trappers—and even paid private contractors—to slaughter up to 90% of the wolves in Idaho.

The new law permits the killing of wolves by various cruel and unethical means, including night hunting with night-vision equipment, aerial gunning, and hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. In addition to letting individuals kill as many wolves as they want, the new law authorizes year-round wolf trapping on private lands, including during the season when pups and females are most vulnerable.

This new Idaho wolf extermination law is only possible because ten years ago this month federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections were stripped from gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern Utah via a rider attached by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) to a must-pass budget bill.

This undemocratic move a decade ago—which blocked any judicial review of the rider—opened the floodgates for widespread wolf killing in the northern Rockies. Over the past few years, state “management” of wolves in the northern Rockies has included Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) hiring a professional hunter-trapper to go into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to slaughter wolves and IDFG conducting aerial gunning operations to butcher wolves in some of the most remote roadless federal wildlands remaining in the lower-48 states.

More recently—during a 12-month period—hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies killed 570 wolves in Idaho, including at least 35 wolf pups. The state of Idaho also allows a $1,000 “bounty” paid to trappers per dead wolf, including wolves killed deep within some of America’s largest and wildest Wilderness areas.

The dire situation for wolves in Montana is much the same. Fresh off revelations that Governor Greg Gianforte did not have a valid license when he trapped and shot a collared Yellowstone wolf, Gov Gianforte has signed numerous draconian bills to slaughter more wolves. New barbaric laws in Montana allow hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves, allow a wolf “bounty,” extend the wolf-trapping season, permit strangulation neck snares, and authorize night-time hunting of wolves on private lands and baiting of wolves.

The vicious situation facing wolves in Montana and Idaho proves that the gray wolf still needs federal ESA protections. As we warned ten years ago, state “management” of wolves essentially amounts to the brutal state-sanctioned eradication of this keystone species.

WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed a lawsuit ten years ago in an attempt to overturn this undemocratic, spiteful wolf rider because we believed the wolf delisting rider violated the U.S. Constitution. While our lawsuit wasn’t successful because Congress simply closed the courthouse doors, the on-going attempts to decimate wolf populations in Idaho and Montana warrant national outrage and action.

State ‘management’ of wolves in Idaho and Montana harkens back to an era when people sought to exterminate wolves altogether, and nearly succeeded. These types of actions were not only deplorable in the early 1900s, but they have zero place in science-based management of a keystone species in 2021, especially in the midst of dual nature and climate crises.

President Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and Congress must take immediate action to restore federal Endangered Species Act for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states—including in the northern Rockies—before it’s too late.

We must not abandon wolf-recovery efforts or allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push these iconic species back to the brink of extinction.

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Earlier this year, I had the great opportunity to join a productive discussion on the links between wildlife trafficking and public health hosted by Eddie Estrada of the Endangered Species Coalition.

I joined staff from newly-elected Senator Ben Ray Lujan’s office and from Senator Martin Heinrich’s office to discuss ”The Preventing Future Pandemics Act” and learn how this bipartisan bill, sponsored by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), is an important step toward preventing future zoonotic epidemics and diseases like the Covid-19.

As Estrada, who hails from Anthony, New Mexico, explained, “This piece of legislation would not only prohibit the exportation and importation of live wildlife species for human consumption and medicinal purposes, but would also end all exploitation of live wildlife trafficking in the U.S.”

This is a bill with teeth. In Estrada’s words, “This legislation would require a study to increase the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services commitment to combat trafficking and improve global enforcement laws.” Estrada emphasized that this act is driven by “an urgent need for a global approach,” which requires bipartisan support from congressional leaders to local leaders in rural communities.

As a part of the discussion, I was able to share how wildlife exploitation has hit home for me. Just this past November, a man taking a stroll through the deserts of Santa Teresa discovered a pile of rotted carnage. What he first thought was a pile of dead dogs, turned out to be a pile of skinned coyotes—roughly 40 dead song dogs. Each coyote had signs of leghold traps. Although skinning and killing coyotes for their fur is not a crime, dumping coyotes certainly is. As of now, no one has been held accountable for this heinous crime.

We have made strides, but still have work to do to prevent such crimes from happening again. In 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 76, which banned coyote killing contests in New Mexico. In doing so, the Land of Enchantment joined seven other states, including our sister states Arizona and Colorado. Even more recently, WildEarth Guardians and the TrapFree New Mexico coalition succeeded in passing Roxy’s Law, which will ban public lands trapping across New Mexico.

But more needs to be done. And the Preventing Future Pandemics Act can help.

Each year, thousands and thousands of native wildlife across the U.S. are killed and skinned for their fur, and sold to other parts of the world, where low-wage processing shops then sell the processed fur to the buyers in the fashion industry for a profit. This practice is inhumane and cruel, which alone is enough to fight to protect wildlife. But now more than ever, the health of people and the health of wildlife and our planet are interconnected. In order to help ourselves, we need to end the exploitation of wildlife.

My name is Cruzer and last month, my mom, dad, and partner, Chaco, were hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest together. Chaco and I were just doing our dog thing—running, marking trees, sniffing everything…and then it happened. I got caught in a leg trap. Boy, did it ever hurt, and did I ever scream! Dad got me out after a few hectic minutes but I would hate for another dog, wild animal, or a small human to go through this experience. I was pretty sore for a few days and limped about, but I’m O.K. now. We have to ban traps on public lands.

Thanks,
Cruzer

(This true story was recently shared with us by WildEarth Guardians member, Dennis Parker)

After years of public education, coalition building, lobbying politicians, advocating, and fighting for justice, New Mexico’s public lands will finally be free of traps, snares, and poisons. Yippee! On April 5, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed “Roxy’s Law,” legislation banning those cruel devices that have caused countless agonizing deaths of animals, wild and domestic, throughout New Mexico.

WildEarth Guardians worked tirelessly for more than a decade to ban traps and poisons on public lands. These dangerous and indiscriminate devices are deeply inhumane and have no place on public lands, whether they harm family pets like Cruzer or lead to fates far worse—not just in New Mexico but across the country.

We committed. We demanded. We organized. And now New Mexico joins only four other states across the country that have passed similar trapping bans on public lands. Roxy’s Law will set the precedent for other states to follow suit and start listening to their citizens, who overwhelmingly abhor trapping and animal cruelty. Guardians will continue to fight for the voiceless and bring to light the importance of ending the use of traps, snares, and poisons on all of America’s public lands.

This Guardians victory came about because we are committed to the vision of cruelty-free and biodiverse public lands—and we’ll need you by our side for the long haul every step of the way to be successful.

It has taken years of steady and consistent action and pressure to get this win in New Mexico. And it will take many more years of action and pressure to see more change across the country.

We pledge to continue fighting for the voiceless and pushing for ethical co-existence with wildlife. We will no doubt have setbacks, but together we can end all trapping on public lands in the American West. We will need your voice, your actions, and your financial support to get it done.

One of the most impactful ways to support our work is by becoming a sustaining monthly supporter and signing up to make a recurring $10, $25, $50, or $100 monthly donation. Over 500 Guardians have already signed up to do just this, and I invite you to join me, and them, as Wild Bunch sustaining members.

Together, we can make ALL public lands safe and enjoyable for recreationists and wildlife. We appreciate your ongoing support.

We did it! Moments ago, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill banning traps, snares, and poisons on public lands across New Mexico.

The new law—called “Roxy’s Law” in honor of a dog who was strangled to death in a neck snare on public lands—will save untold numbers of native wildlife, including bobcats, swift foxes, badgers, beavers, ermine, coyotes, and Mexican gray wolves. It also will protect recreationists and our companion animals from cruel and indiscriminate traps, snares, and poisons on public lands across the Land of Enchantment.

This monumental victory for wildlife and public lands would not have been possible without you! You wrote letters, made phone calls, shared action alerts with your friends and networks, and generously supported our campaign. Thank you!

We also want to thank all of our partner organizations in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition who have collaborated with us for years to ensure that the cruel decimation of wildlife populations via traps, snares, and poisons ceases on public lands.

A few weeks ago, when Roxy’s Law passed the New Mexico Legislature, the National Trappers Association said this on social media: “The trappers of New Mexico are on the brink of losing trapping. They are doing so because their opponents started the process 10 years ago and have been relentless. This is a 365 day a year conquest for them.”

While “conquest” is a word I would reserve to describe the infinite killing of native wildlife for private profit, the rest rings true.

Thousands and thousands of Guardians like you have been working relentlessly for years to make public lands safer, to protect native wildlife, to better society’s relationship with wildness and nature, and to erase the paradigm of killing wildlife for fun and money.

So, join me in celebrating today’s huge milestone for wildlife and public lands, and rest assured that working together—and with your generous support—we will have more victories like this to celebrate in the near future.

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Together, we did it!

Thursday night, after hours of debate—and with the vote in the New Mexico House deadlocked for what seemed like an eternity—the very last vote was cast, passing a landmark bill to ban traps, snares, and poisons on New Mexico public lands by the slimmest of margins, 35-34.

This final legislative step sends Senate Bill 32—called “Roxy’s Law” in memory of a cattle dog who died in a neck snare on public land—to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk to be signed into law.

The effort to get these dangerous and indiscriminate devices off public lands in New Mexico has been ongoing for over a decade and we are thrilled to see this tireless work pay off. Despite the many obstacles and fervent opposition, thousands of grassroots activists like you did not give up fighting this long battle on behalf of wildlife, public lands, people, and companion animals in New Mexico.

Thank you all for the support, whether that was in the form of responding to our calls to contact your legislators, writing letters to the editor, sharing social media posts to raise awareness, or making financial contributions to the campaign.

Endless pressure was endlessly applied and Guardians certainly could not have reached this milestone without your actions and your support!

Along with all of you who have chipped in, we want to recognize our partners in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition: Rio Grande Chapter of Sierra Club, Animal Protection Voters, Southwest Environmental Center, New Mexico Wild, Project Coyote, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Voters of New Mexico, Endangered Species Coalition, Amigos Bravos, Mountain Lion Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, and Sandia Mountain Bearwatch. Strong coalitions of organizations and individuals are crucial in making change happen and we are thankful to be part of such a powerful group of allies.

Once signed into law, this bill will make public lands safer and more accessible, protect critical native wildlife—including the endangered Mexican gray wolf—and inject much needed science, ethics, and respect into how the Land of Enchantment treats animals.

We’re not there yet and we’ll need your help to ensure Roxy’s Law actually becomes law. But for now, we invite all Guardians to join us in celebrating this huge milestone for wildlife and public lands!

It had seemed for the past half century that perhaps the worst of wolf killing was finally over. After centuries of methodic extermination had nearly completely wiped the animals out of the lower forty-eight, government agencies, scientists, and the general public began to see wolves not primarily as threats to private property, but rather, as invaluable ecological assets that stabilized the ecosystems relied upon by many in the West.

In 1974, the gray wolf was one of the first imperiled species to receive federal protections under the newly-passed Endangered Species Act, As wolves were subsequently reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid 1990s, and thus began migrating to regain their historic range, they slowly began to recover.

A series of recent events across the country make clear this work of wolf recovery has never been in greater jeopardy. In January, the Trump administration finalized the removal of gray wolves from the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act and, within a matter of weeks, we witnessed a disturbing new chapter in the nation’s history of needless and irresponsible wolf killing.

In Wisconsin, just a few weeks ago, over 27,000 people applied for an ill-conceived hunt during the wolves’ mating season that, in only three days, left 216 gray wolves dead. Shocked state officials had to call off the hunt prematurely, but not before the three-day slaughter led to 82 percent more wolf deaths than the state had allocated for the entire hunting and trapping season.

Meanwhile, in Montana, a state in which wolves lost Endangered Species Act protections in 2011, not by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service), but by a political act of Congress, the federal delisting emboldened the state to up its efforts to eliminate wolves from the landscape. In the past month, the Montana Senate passed a bill allowing for private bounties for dead wolves and the Montana House passed a bill expanding hunting and trapping seasons (and allowing snares) in an effort to further reduce wolf populations. The traps and snares, which often prolong an animal’s death, are indiscriminate and dangerous not only to wolves but also to non-target species. In a recent six-year period in Montana, for example, at least 350 non-target animals, ranging from mountain lions to pet dogs, were caught in traps. Montana’s recent laws to incentivize and further enable wolf hunting are not simply inhumane, they severely threaten to undo gray wolf recovery efforts and destabilize ecosystems.

These recent activities follow on the heels of a similarly unsettling example of failed state-level wolf management in Idaho, where wolves have also been delisted since 2011. There, over a recent twelve-month period, trappers, hunters, and state and federal agencies killed an astounding 570 wolves, including at least thirty-five wolf pups as young as four weeks old. These wolves, some of whom died of hypothermia in traps or were gunned down from helicopters, represented nearly sixty percent of the total estimated wolf population in the state at the end of 2019. This high number of wolf kills directly reflect the state’s wolf policies: Idaho recently increased the legal limit of wolves an individual can kill in a year to thirty, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game currently funds wolf bounty programs in the state.

Taken together, the examples of Idaho, Wisconsin, and Montana give us all the evidence we need that state-led management does not ensure the protection and recovery of gray wolves.

This horrifying slaughter of wolves in just a few states—based not on science, but on fear and hatred for a long persecuted species—is why WildEarth Guardians has joined a broad coalition of groups across the country to challenge the Service’s decision to delist wolves in court. Wolves have not recovered in the West and the decision to delist them goes against the intent of the Endangered Species Act, which not only mandates the federal government to forestall the extermination of gray wolves but also, crucially, to promote their full recovery. Although this law has played an enormous role in preventing the wholesale loss of gray wolves in the contiguous US, its work to ensure their continued survival and recovery, as these recent examples in Montana, Idaho, and Wisconsin make all too clear, is far from finished.

To let the work of gray wolf recovery go unfinished would be a tragedy hard to tabulate. Gray wolves are a keystone species that play a critical role in the ecological health of their historic range. Being listed under the Endangered Species Act has allowed gray wolves to begin to rebound in the upper Great Lakes region, yet their recovery there does nothing for the populations of gray wolves throughout the West, where the animals remain largely absent or underpopulated in their historic range. For example, in Oregon and Washington, estimates indicate less than 150 wolves in each state while in Colorado, a location in which wolves roamed across all landscapes in the 1800s through early 1900s, has only reported sightings of a handful of lone wolves in the last two years.  The example of success in the upper Great Lakes region should not be used to dismantle wolf protections, but rather, to illustrate the continued need for those protections throughout the country where wolf populations remain extremely vulnerable. Only ongoing federal protections, based on scientific data, will guarantee gray wolves a continued and healthy future in this country. To that end, please urge the Biden administration to restore Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves.

As our nation reckons with its story of conquest, recent killing sprees of gray wolves in the remote forests of Wisconsin or the northern Rockies should not go unnoticed. The brutal and bloody history of gray wolves—along with other native megafauna such as bison—in our country is inextricably tied to the larger history of colonization and violence that continues to shape our society. Our country has a deep history of White settlers demonizing the animals in folklore and frontier mythology and equating Native Americans to wolves and other animals within the broader project of colonization. Seen in this light, recent wolf hunts such as what we recently witnessed in Wisconsin are not merely mismanaged debacles, they are part of a much deeper, far more tragic, story. “Wolves symbolized the frustrations and anxieties of colonization,” as historian Jon T. Coleman has written regarding wolf history in this country, “and the canines paid in blood for their utility as metaphor.”

As we are painfully aware, the history of colonization, and of White frustrations and anxieties surrounding colonization, is ongoing. Gray wolves, sadly, may continue to be part of the story. But gray wolves, and the unsound policies and unethical practices aimed at killing them, also present a way to dive deeper into the nation’s history of colonization and violence in search of ways to reconsider a better future. Wolves are “living reminders of colonization,” in Coleman’s words, that “embody an unbroken history of conquest worth pondering and protecting.” As the nation grapples with its history, protecting the gray wolf is not simply about ensuring healthy ecosystems; it is also about preserving a living historical monument to our nation’s violent past and reaffirming a commitment to rise above that legacy of conquest.

On a warm November morning last year, a man taking a stroll through the amazing trails south of Santa Teresa discovered a pile of some forty dumped animals. What he first thought were dead greyhounds turned out to be coyotes. They had been killed and skinned, and left with only a little fur on their legs. The carcasses were left to unceremoniously decay in the desert. Wounds on their paws indicated that this was the heinous work of trappers.

This gruesome scene is the common outcome of trapping, but is rarely witnessed by the public. Trapping is legal in New Mexico, and is widespread on public lands. A license only costs $20 through the Department of Game and Fish, but the real cost is paid by the public and by our ecosystems. Over the years, dozens of companion animals have been victims of traps on public lands. Coyotes are a common target, but a range of species, including bobcats, beavers, badgers and foxes are killed by the thousands every year so that a tiny group of New Mexicans can profit from taking away something we all love.

As a native New Mexican, I know that our state’s public lands have some of the most beautiful scenery and landscapes. They are also home to an incredibly diverse array of wildlife, and these species are all important parts of interconnected ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems clean our air, maintain our soil, regulate climate, and recycle nutrients that provide us with food. Animals such as coyotes and foxes keep rodent populations in check, protecting us all from disease and safeguarding crops.  Beavers help to store precious water in the dry desert. Elusive bobcats are a treat for anyone to see while out on a hike.

The pile of coyotes found near Santa Teresa is a grim reminder that a handful of New Mexicans think that wildlife is there for them to slaughter for fur or for a sport. But maybe, this horror will prompt some of our state legislators to act in 2021. A small fraction of our state’s population holds our public lands hostage for nearly a third of the year with dangerous and deadly traps. Banning traps on public lands must be a priority this coming year.

With newly elected representation in southern New Mexico, there will be an opportunity to make all of our public lands safer for people and pets and more hospitable to wildlife. Banning traps on public lands is a common-sense solution that our neighbors in Arizona and Colorado made decades ago. It’s time for New Mexico to catch up. In 2019, New Mexico passed Senate Bill 76 banning coyote killing contests. The obvious next step to bring our wildlife and public lands policies into the 21st century is right in front of us. Our elected lawmakers should have an easy decision in the upcoming 60-day legislative session.

As a rural resident myself, I see that these public lands are home to the most beautiful sceneries that southern New Mexico has to offer. These lands must not be home to dump sites and animals suffering and left to rot in the desert. Our elected lawmakers must recognize the change we need in order to ensure that this remains the Land of Enchantment.

To learn more about the effort to get cruel, indiscriminate traps off of public lands, please click here. If you live in New Mexico, urge your legislators to take action.

Note: This piece original ran in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Representative Deb Haaland’s nomination by President Biden to lead the Interior Department represents an historic opportunity to drive the systemic change the natural world, our climate, and our country so desperately need.

If confirmed, Haaland—an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo—would be the first Indigenous person to run any Cabinet-level department in the history of the United States.

The full Senate vote to confirm Representative Haaland will be Monday, March 15, so we’re asking you to contact both of your senators today.

Unfortunately, Biden’s most historic Cabinet nomination could also be his most imperiled. That’s because senators in the back pocket of the dirty fossil fuel industry simply don’t want a climate justice activist and protector of public lands at the reins of the Interior Department.  Which is why we’re asking you—imploring you—to speak out on behalf of Haaland’s confirmation today.

Representative Haaland is a steadfast champion of bold climate action, environmental justice, Tribal rights, and protection of public lands and endangered wildlife.

In Congress, Haaland has been at the forefront of issues central to the climate and nature crises that the Interior Department must address. The Interior Department must stop the plundering of public lands, protect endangered species, implement policies that nurture an ethic of wildlife coexistence, protect 30% of all lands by 2030, and expand and deepen protection of national parks, monuments, and cultural sites.

Representative Haaland is exactly the visionary leader America needs to guide the Interior Department toward justice, equity, conservation, and environmental protection at this pivotal point in history. Her bold vision to address the nature and climate crises is precisely why some senators—and the resource exploiters bankrolling their election campaigns—adamantly oppose her leading the Interior Department.

They’re saying she’s too radical. But Haaland is merely committed to the bold and just path of transitioning our nation off our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

Confirmation of Representative Haaland to be Interior Secretary would be a monumental step forward for Indigenous rights, climate action, environmental justice, and protection of public lands and threatened wildlife. In these times we need bold leadership, so please join me and urge your senators to support and confirm Representative Haaland to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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.