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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.

Montana has always been my home, the place where I was born and raised and where my family still lives. Whether you were lucky enough to be born in Montana like me—or discovered Montana later—Montana’s wildness and wildlife leave many awestruck and inspired.

Unfortunately, some Montana politicians want the state to take giant leaps backward when it comes to state “management” of gray wolves. We urgently need your voice!

Four draconian wolf killing bills are incredibly close to becoming law in Montana. The bills would allow trappers to snare wolves, extend the wolf trapping season, place a bounty on wolves, allow every individual with a wolf hunting or trapping license to kill an unlimited number of wolves, allow the use of bait while hunting or trapping wolves, and permit the hunting of wolves at night on private land with the use of artificial lights or night vision scopes.

As if these appalling bills were not bad enough, they would be signed into law by Montana’s Governor Greg Gianforte—who violated the state’s existing regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February, according to documents obtained by the Mountain West News Bureau.

According to the Bureau, “Gov. Gianforte killed the adult black wolf known as ‘1155’ roughly ten miles north of the park’s boundary in Park County. He trapped it on a private ranch owned by Robert E. Smith, director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who contributed thousands of dollars to Gianforte’s 2017 congressional campaign. Gianforte violated Montana regulations by harvesting the wolf without first completing a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued the governor a written warning, and he promised to take the three-hour online course March 24.”

Whether you’re a Montana resident or a Montana visitor who values wolves in the wild, sign this petition demanding that Governor Gianforte veto these backward and disgraceful bills.

WildEarth Guardians members and supporters have consistently stood with us to defend wolves. You’ve taken action, you’ve spread the word, and you’ve supported our Wolf Defense Fund.

Now we urgently need you to speak up to stop Montana from decimating wolf populations with cruel and unethical wolf killing bills that harken back to an era when people sought to exterminate wolves altogether, and nearly succeeded.

P.S. Are you on Twitter? After you take action, make an even bigger impact by tweeting at Governor Gianforte and the Montana Office of Tourism.

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.

A western icon and the namesake of Joshua Tree National Park in California, the Joshua tree’s spiny majesty has dominated Mojave Desert landscapes for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the tree’s inability to withstand the effects of climate change means it may not be around for the next hundred unless we take action now.

Reasons to save the Joshua tree

1. People love it.

From the 2.8 million visitors who flock to Joshua Tree National Park every year—including an estimated 300,000 rock climbers—to the band U2, the surreal beauty of Joshua trees captivates people worldwide.

2. Joshua Tree National Park without the Joshua tree is just “national park.”

That just sucks for a name.

3. It’s a closer relative to tequila than to trees.

The Joshua tree isn’t really a tree at all—it’s a giant yucca and a member of the Agave family.

4. Giant sloths were its biggest fans.

The species lived through the Pleistocene, when its fruits were food for giant sloths. Native Americans used the Joshua tree’s leaves for baskets and sandals and ate its flower buds and seeds. Westbound Mormons allegedly named the tree after a biblical story that mentioned Joshua, his hands outstretched. Generations later, Westerners and visitors alike continue to marvel at this strange plant.

5. We’re killing it with climate change.

Joshua trees are adapted to cold winters, hot summers, and little precipitation. With the southwest drying and warming due to climate change, most climate models agree that Joshua trees will lose up to 90 percent of their habitat in the next century.

6. It’s a moth’s best friend and a bird’s last refuge.

The Joshua tree is the product of an amazing symbiosis. Yucca moths pollinate and lay their eggs in Joshua tree flowers. As the babies grow, they eat Joshua tree seeds. Neither tree nor moth could reproduce without the other.

The tree is also a wildlife haven: 25 bird species nest in it, lizards use it for shelter, and mammals rely on it for food.

7. It’s old school.

While it’s hard to tell a Joshua tree’s true age, as it has no growth rings, trees may live over 300 years, making them probably the oldest living things in the American southwest desert.

8. It’s a slow plant in a fast world.

Joshua trees reproduce slowly. Their generation time is estimated to be between 20 and 50 years. Therefore, if we want to conserve them for future generations, we’ll need to start now.

They’re slow movers, too. The Joshua tree depends on rodents to disperse its seeds, but the rodents don’t move far from the trees. This means that when climate change threatens its habitat, the Joshua tree can’t easily expand its habitat to higher/colder/more hospitable ground.

9. It really needs our help.

Climate change, higher temperatures, longer droughts, and larger and more frequent fires are already taking their toll on Joshua trees, which need wet and cold periods to thrive and take decades to recover from fires.

Thankfully, WildEarth Guardians has a plan to protect the Joshua tree, and it starts with petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect it under the federal Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, the Service denied the petition in August 2019, so in November 2019 Guardians took the Service to court.

As our lawsuit makes its way through the court system, you can support Joshua tree conservation by urging the federal government to reconsider the Service’s denial of Endangered Species Act protections for the Joshua tree.


Download and share this infographic!

Download a PDF version of this Joshua tree infographic or click-and-drag the image below to your desktop. Then share on your social networks to spread the word about this incredible, imperiled plant!  Here’s a sample social media post you can use:

A western icon, the Joshua tree has dominated Mojave Desert landscapes for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the Joshua tree’s inability to withstand the effects of climate change means it may not be around for the next hundred unless we take action now: https://guardiansaction.org/JoshuaTree

Joshua Tree Infographic WildEarth Guardians 2021

 

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.

It’s time to break out your happy dance!

Thanks to another successful lawsuit by WildEarth Guardians and our allies, last week a federal judge restored protections to 10 million acres of vital greater sage grouse habitat by overturning a Trump administration decision that would have allowed mining and other development.

The ruling, which is the latest in a series of court victories for sage grouse conservation, protects over 15,600 square miles of federal public lands primarily in Idaho and Nevada, but also in parts of Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Greater sage grouse—most famous for their fancy-dancing mating rituals—once occupied hundreds of millions of acres across the American West. Unfortunately, populations plummeted as oil and gas extraction, livestock grazing, hardrock mining, roads, and power lines destroyed and fragmented their native habitats.

A classic indicator species, the greater sage grouse is the foremost ambassador for the Sagebrush Sea ecosystem—a vast landscape of mostly inadequately protected wildlands between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada—which also provides important habitat for wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, pronghorn, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and other wildlife.

With you by our side, Guardians has fought tirelessly to protect greater sage grouse and the Sagebrush Sea for nearly twenty years, which makes this victory all the more gratifying.

But the job to defend sage grouse is far from finished. The greater sage grouse must have federal protection under the Endangered Species Act if they are to survive, thrive, and truly recover. That’s why Guardians will redouble our efforts to convince the Biden administration to list this iconic, but critically imperiled, species for protection under the Act.

As always, our success will depend upon your voice, your actions, and your generous financial support. So, as we all savor this latest victory, please stay tuned as we’ll need you to keep fighting for greater sage grouse and the Sagebrush Sea.

A federal judge on February 11, 2021 overturned a Trump administration decision to strip protections from 10 million acres, mostly in Nevada and Idaho, to allow mining in vital habitat for greater sage grouse, the latest in a series of court victories for sage grouse conservation. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill said the Bureau of Land Management failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for canceling its own earlier proposal to protect the highest-priority sagebrush habitats from hardrock mining.

Greater sage grouse once occupied hundreds of millions of acres across the West, but their populations have plummeted as oil and gas extraction, livestock grazing, roads and power lines have destroyed and fragmented their native habitats. Protecting the grouse and its habitat benefits hundreds of other species that depend on the Sagebrush Sea ecosystem. That includes pronghorn, elk, mule deer, golden eagles, native trout, and migratory and resident birds. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for managing about half of the nation’s remaining sage-grouse habitat.

“Greater sage grouse are one of many species across the American West whose very existence is in jeopardy, which made the Trump administration’s decision to put the interests of industry over the protection of this iconic species even more reckless,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “We are hopeful that the new Biden-Harris administration will take the biodiversity crisis seriously and see this decision as a step toward getting greater sage grouse the protection they need in order to thrive.”

Read more about the win for the greater sage grouse and the sagebrush sea.

On January 14, WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed suit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service challenging the premature stripping away of federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the entire lower 48 states. The 11th hour move by the Trump administration means gray wolves are now once again in hunter’s and trapper’s crosshairs. We refuse to accept this atrocity and are fighting by all legal means to overturn the decision and restore protections for gray wolves.

Wolves belong and they need our voices and our actions.

WildEarth Guardians has stood as a champion for the voiceless and the vulnerable for over three decades and has regularly fought so that gray wolves, other native carnivores, and hundreds of imperiled species have a chance to fully recover and thrive.

Over the past year, tens of thousands of you have signed our petitions, sent letters, and called officials to demand protection for wolves. You have stood with—and beside—us. As we look at the work ahead of us in 2021, I also ask you to stand with us again and consider supporting Guardians’ Wolf Defense Fund. I have high hopes of overturning this outrageous decision and it’s going to take time, effort, and significant resources for us to win—even with a new administration.

Guardians pledges to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to reverse the heinous decision to delist wolves and hand their fate to states and people that wish to once again see wolves slaughtered, trapped, and hunted—instead of revered, understood, and welcomed across the wilds of the American West.

Please stand with us again today, and be prepared to take action again soon on behalf of wolves.