WildEarth Guardians

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WildEarth Guardians has been working with community members in and around Mogollon, New Mexico to support their fight against ongoing exploratory drilling by Canadian mining company Summa Silver Corporation.

In response to community demands, Summa will be holding a meeting on Wednesday, June 29 at 9 am at the Purple Onion Cafe in Mogollon. Two additional meetings are proposed for Glenwood and Alma, with dates to be determined. So stay tuned.

Summa’s proposed mining activities extend beyond the historic Mogollon mining district, reaching deeper into the Gila National Forest and Greater Gila landscape.

In addition to negative impacts on clean water, clean air, and local quality of life, Summa’s proposed mining activities would have an extremely adverse effect on the habitat of threatened Mexican spotted owls, which are heard ritually by local residents during the spring and summer months. Other wildlife that frequent the ridges and drainages of the Mogollon area include endangered Mexican gray wolf, mountain lion, bobcat, black bear, fox, coyote, elk, deer, and coatimundi.

We are encouraging everyone concerned for the future of the Gila Wilderness and its surrounding forests to attend the meeting and voice your opposition to mining in the Greater Gila.

Whether or not you can attend the meeting on June 29, please sign this petition demanding greater protections for the Greater Gila, which will be delivered to the CEO of Summa at the community meeting.

WildEarth Guardians and the community members of Mogollon are grateful for your support! Click here to read a letter from community members asking for your support.

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Protecting big trees is one of the most important things we can do to fight climate change. And it should be one of the easiest. Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t gotten the message.

Please speak up for the climate by asking President Biden to preserve the remaining big trees across 11,000 square miles of six national forests in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.

Photo by Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.

These trees were protected from logging for the past 25 years by a set of rules called the Eastside Screens. But on the last day of the Trump administration, the Forest Service rewrote one of those rules to give itself license to log big trees greater than 21 inches in diameter on the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Malheur, Ochoco, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman national forests.

The Forest Service’s position is now contrary to President Biden’s instructions to safeguard the nation’s mature forests, as well as to studies demonstrating the critical role big trees play in fighting the worst impacts of climate change.

The rule barring the cutting of big trees in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington must be reinstated, so act now.

On Earth Day, Biden issued an executive order instructing the federal government to enlist Nature in the fight against climate change. The order highlighted the critical role that mature and old forests on public lands play in combating the global climate and biodiversity crises. The president’s order noted America’s forests absorb more than 10 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions and directed the Forest Service to manage the nation’s forests to retain and enhance carbon storage as well as protect biodiversity.

President Biden’s order is firmly grounded in science. A global study of 48 forests of all types found that among forests with trees of different age classes, the 1 percent largest diameter trees held half the living aboveground carbon. A study of Oregon forests found trees greater than 21 inches in diameter made up just 3 percent of the total number of trees in those forests, yet held 43 percent of their total aboveground carbon. And the idea that logging a forest can preserve carbon—in lumber and other wood products—that would be lost to wildfire has been debunked.

For almost a year and a half Guardians and our partners have been asking the Forest Service to restore the Eastside Screens rule that had protected big trees. On June 14, because the agency has begun approving timber sales that will log big trees in eastern Oregon, we were forced to go to court to get the Trump rewrite thrown out. But there’s still time for the Forest Service to do the right thing and comply with President Biden’s Earth Day executive order by restoring the original Eastside Screens rule.

Speak up for the trees and tell the Biden administration to restore the Eastside Screens rule to protect big trees and fight climate change.

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The U.S. Air Force wants to modify 10 Military Operations Areas (MOAs) that stretch across southern Arizona and southwest New Mexico. We can’t let this military expansion despoil some of America’s wildest country.

The proposal would authorize low-level fighter jet maneuvers and supersonic flights that cause sonic booms above rural and Tribal communities, some of the Southwest’s most fragile sky-island ecosystems, and beloved wilderness areas and national monuments.

The Air Force also wants to permit dropping of flares at lower altitudes, increasing the risk of human-caused wildfires across landscapes already experiencing severe drought. Additionally, the proposal would allow release of aluminum-coated silica “chaff” over public lands, polluting the environment.

Guardians needs your help to stop these proposed actions before fighter jet condensation trails hit the skies. Public comments are being accepted through June 3. You can submit your comments here.

Use these talking points below as a guide for writing your comments. But to make the biggest impact, please use your own voice to convey that the proposed action to optimize ten existing MOAs by the Air Force lacks sufficiently detailed information and as such the Air Force must explain how they will do the following:

  • Evaluate the impacts of extreme noise from low-level and supersonic training on communities (including potential for damage to structures), outdoor recreation economies, livestock, and wildlife (including threatened and endangered species).
  • Assess the wildfire risk from the use of flares at lower elevations and potential military aircraft crashes, develop mitigation measures to reduce the risks, develop realistic plans for fighting a flare-induced or crash-induced fire, and express how public safety will be ensured.
  • Fully assess contamination of air, land, and water from aircraft emissions and release of chaff and flares.
  • Evaluate the environmental justice impacts of this proposal on communities of color and low-income communities, including the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache Tribes, Tohono O’odham Nation, and Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Furthermore, consultation with these Tribes must occur.
  • Provide an analysis of the cumulative impacts of these airspace modifications to communities and wildlife and a plan for how impacts will be mitigated.

This proposal would impact dozens of rural communities, four Tribes, and millions of acres of public lands that sustain ecosystems, water quality, wildlife, and public recreation. So please click here to submit your comments and oppose the Air Force’s plans to despoil the quiet and wildness that you hold dear.

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Guardians is a proud supporter of the inaugural Healthy Public Lands Conference, which will be held June 1-3 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference will offer opportunities to learn more about the current state of public lands in the American West; better understand the laws, regulations, and policies that guide public lands management; and contribute to a collective vision for managing public lands that prioritizes healthy watersheds and ecosystems rather than livestock production.

A partial list of panel topics for the first two days of the conference include Indigenous perspectives on public lands and traditional ecological knowledge, recent science on the impacts of grazing to western ecosystems, the ongoing aridification or “great drying” of the interior West that is happening because of climate change, and the connection between public lands extremists and the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Keynote speakers and panelists are still being finalized, so stay tuned.

There will also be experiential learning, with the third day of the conference devoted to a field trip to a public lands grazing allotment. Attendees will learn how to quantitatively assess the health of public lands with active grazing allotments, how to report those findings to Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service staff, and how to best participate in federal land management decision-making.

Conference sponsors want this event to be available to everyone and are offering sliding scale registration rates. To learn more and to register, click here.

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The Arizona Legislature is considering a resolution that would pull the state backward in the fight to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030—in spite of the fact that 92 percent of Arizonans say it’s important for the state to “preserve and protect its rivers, natural areas and wildlife.”

We cannot allow a few loud voices in the state legislature to undermine the long-term health and well-being of wild places for their own self-interest. If you live in Arizona, please speak up today to defend 30×30 in Arizona by urging your legislators to oppose HCR 2024.

Arizona’s unique ecosystems are already feeling the impacts of increasing temperatures and intense drought. If passed, this resolution would make it more difficult for state and local environmental groups to advance conservation efforts on the ground—compromising the future of conservation in Arizona.

Stand up for what you love about Arizona. If you call the Grand Canyon State home, please write your state legislators and ask them to oppose HCR 2024.

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Despite receiving thousands of letters of opposition from many of you, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has so far ignored our call to withdraw a right-of-way across public lands in southwest Utah.

The right-of-way had been granted by the Trump administration, just before it left office, through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area outside St. George—a rapidly sprawling city. Trump’s BLM did this despite clear instruction from Congress in 2009 that Red Cliffs was designated to conserve and protect the plants and wildlife, including the threatened Mojave desert tortoise, that live where the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau converge.

This past June, Guardians and our partners sued BLM for failing to uphold its responsibilities to manage the Red Cliffs. Construction hasn’t started on the four-lane highway—yet—so the Biden administration still has an opportunity to correct this terrible decision by its predecessors.

To get the Biden administration’s attention, Guardians and allies have created a shared website asking the public to join together to voice its opposition to this destructive and unnecessary highway across fragile desert habitat.

The overall goal is 80,000 signatures. With the help of Guardians’ great supporters, I’m confident we can reach that goal.

Please take action and tell the BLM that the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area is too valuable to destroy with a highway.

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On October 8, President Biden issued proclamations restoring the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

WildEarth Guardians is grateful to the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe for their leadership in advocating for the swift restoration of Bears Ears. I’d also like to thank our members and supporters who wrote President Biden over 14,000 times urging him to restore these national monuments.

The proclamations immediately renewed protections for innumerable cultural and paleontological sites on public lands in southern Utah. Biden’s orders fulfilled a campaign promise and came four years after Trump gutted two million acres from the monuments in 2017.

From a biodiversity standpoint, it is difficult to overstate the importance of protecting these two places. Bears Ears is in the top 10 percent of similarly sized places in the American West for both ecological intactness and connectivity—two factors considered essential for biodiversity and landscape-level conservation. Grand Staircase-Escalante is in the top four percent for ecological intactness and the top six percent for connectivity.

Bears Ears is also home to at least 13 species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the California condor, Mexican spotted owl, and greenback cutthroat trout. Grand Staircase-Escalante is believed to offer an even greater diversity of species, with more than 200 species of birds and—incredibly—more than 650 species of bees.

For now, let’s celebrate this big win. But it’s clear this won’t be the final battle to protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, because we have little doubt that industry groups, the state of Utah, and those hostile to national monuments and public lands will file lawsuits challenging Biden’s proclamations.

We will continue to fight for the people and wildlife sustained by these two critical national monuments. In fact, Guardians and our allies still have a lawsuit pending in federal court challenging Trump’s illegal dissolution of Bears Ears National Monument to ensure that no future president can eliminate or shrink a national monument designated by an earlier president.

So let’s all celebrate this monumental win even as we know we’ll need to prepare to defend these special landscapes from future attacks.

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In December 2017, then-President Trump slashed the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by half. In one fell swoop, over 2 million acres were gutted from the national monuments—never before had so much public land lost federal protection.

President Biden has pledged to study restoring the boundaries of these monuments. Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Utah to learn more about the threats to cultural and environmental resources on the lands that were stripped of monument protections.

Now it’s up to the president to take action. Please ask President Biden to protect these two important landscapes by moving quickly to issue proclamations reinstating the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

The need for the president to take action is evident. Sites sacred to the Bears Ears Tribes—protected for only a short time after President Obama designated the monument in 2016—are targets for looters and even grave robbers. Public lands previously inside the boundary of Bears Ears face threats of oil and gas development and uranium mining. Illegal and inappropriate off-road motorized travel further jeopardizes the unique landscape and irreplaceable cultural sites found in Bears Ears.

The dangers are much the same for Grand Staircase-Escalante. Energy extraction, increased livestock grazing, fossil collection, and off-road vehicle travel all threaten the incredible beauty and biodiversity of public lands, which had been protected for more than 20 years prior to Trump taking office.

The good news is that the president can act quickly, as the case for restoring the monuments has already been made. Prior to Obama’s designation of Bears Ears National Monument, the Interior Department completed a thorough review that illuminated the need to protect the region’s treasures. Ever since Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established in 1996, the Bureau of Land Management has extensively documented the region’s outstanding paleontological resources, and scientists have made significant discoveries regarding its biodiversity.

The benefits these two cherished places provide—and the threats they currently face—are all too clear. With your help, we can ensure these vital public lands are once again protected. Speak up to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

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The San Carlos Apache and their Tribal and non-profit allies have been fighting tirelessly for decades to save their sacred site of Chi’chil Bildagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, within the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. Their commitment, perseverance, and courage have managed to stave off the rapacious appetites of multinational mining company Rio Tinto, which has already desecrated a 28,000-year-old Aboriginal site in Australia.

We now have the opportunity to permanently overturn the 2014 midnight rider that authorized the transfer of public and sacred lands to Rio Tinto. In March, Representative Raúl Grijalva introduced the Save Oak Flat Act to protect this sacred Indigenous site from being destroyed by a massive copper mine and Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

It’s long overdue that we uphold the treaty rights and federal trust responsibilities promised to the original inhabitants of this country and overturning the 2014 rider that gave an Indigenous sacred site to a multinational mining corporation would be a significant step in the right direction. Write your members of Congress today.

Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, Resolution Copper, is proposing the use of block cave mining at Oak Flat, a type of underground mining that will collapse the land surface and leave a crater nearly two miles wide and over 1,000 feet deep. That’s in addition to the 1.4 billion tons of toxic waste the mine would produce, which would be dumped into the fragile desert ecosystem, likely ending up in the ground and surface water.

The mine will also require upwards of 250 billion gallons of water—that’s the equivalent of a football field filled with water, 147 miles high. The American Southwest is already deeply mired in a water crisis. We cannot afford to continue to promote and prioritize these kinds of water-intensive extractive industries at the expense of the health and resilience of the human and non-human communities who must rely on the land and its water long after the copper has run dry.

Ask your members of Congress to support the Save Oak Flat Act. This is our chance to demonstrate our commitment to Tribal sovereignty, ecological integrity, and the rich and powerful space where the two intersect.

I’d like to share some good news for public lands, wilderness, wildlife habitat, and the rule of law.

Just one day after WildEarth Guardians and our partners filed a lawsuit, the Bureau of Land Management rescinded a last-minute Trump administration decision permitting an unqualified ranching company to graze cattle on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon.

These public lands grazing allotments are on the ancestral homeland of the Burns Paiute Tribe and the Northern Paiute and the Western Shoshone peoples. The lands include designated wilderness and other wilderness-quality lands that contain a trove of cultural resources, as well as important habitat for imperiled sage grouse, redband trout, and other species.

On his last day in office—the day before Inauguration Day—former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt rushed to grant public land grazing privileges to Dwight and Steven Hammond. Bernhardt cut short, and unlawfully ignored, public participation and failed to consider impacts to native species, cultural resources, and wilderness.

The Hammond’s previous grazing permit had been revoked after the father and son were convicted of intentionally setting fire to public lands in 2012. In 2016, insurrectionists cited that conviction when they took up arms and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days.

While Guardians will continue advocating for public lands grazing reform, one important action you can take right now is to raise your voice to make sure the federal government holds law-breakers and scofflaws accountable, rather than granting them special favors and treatment.

As always, you can count on Guardians to protect wildlands and critical wildlife habitat while we also defend the rights of everyone to have an equal say in how America’s public lands are managed.