Let’s take a moment to celebrate good news for wolves in Washington! Thanks to guardians like you, our message was heard loud and clear: Washington’s iconic wolves deserve protection and non-lethal management should be prioritized.
During the past two weeks, more than 8,500 of you took action by urging Governor Jay Inslee to approve our appeal for better wolf management rules. On September 4, Gov. Inslee heard you and directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to initiate a new rulemaking process to develop “clear” and “enforceable” measures designed to avoid the repeated slaughter of wolves in the state, which has resulted in 34 dead wolves since 2012.
Rulemaking is a transparent process which allows for public input. The process also requires that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife consider the use of science-backed, non-lethal measures to deter livestock-wolf conflicts and examine chronic conflict zones where problems have occurred year after year. Washington has the opportunity to be a leader in wolf management and this is an exciting step towards a better future for wolves in the state and across the West.
You and other wolf advocates helped make this victory possible, and your voices will certainly be needed again as we enter the rulemaking process. For today, join us in celebrating this important step toward better rules for Washington’s wolves and know that your continued support and partnership will enable us to keep defending wolves throughout the American West.
In good news for wildlife coexistence, Gov. Jay Inslee has directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft new rules governing the killing of wolves involved in conflicts with livestock. This action reverses the commission’s denial of a petition filed by WildEarth Guardians and our allies in May that called for reform of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s lethal wolf-management policies.
The new rules will address the use of science-backed non-lethal measures to avoid livestock-wolf conflicts. They will likely further examine chronic conflict areas where the state has killed wolves year after year. The state has killed 34 wolves since 2012. Twenty-nine were killed for the same livestock owner in prime wolf habitat in the Colville National Forest. After the Fish and Wildlife Commission denied the wolf advocates’ petition in June, the groups appealed to the governor, who had 45 days to decide whether to deny the appeal or require the commission to create new wolf-management rules.
“Demonstrating a commitment to environmental leadership, Gov. Inslee has put the Department on notice: It’s time for better rules, and public transparency, when it comes to Washington’s iconic wolves. The killing of the entire Wedge Pack this year was unacceptable; it has happened before and it should never happen again,” said Samantha Bruegger, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner at WildEarth Guardians. “A huge thank you to WildEarth Guardians members and supporters who sent Gov. Inslee over 8,500 emails and made a ton of phone calls over the past few weeks. Together, we will end the war on wolves and other native wildlife.”
State and local officials in southwest Utah are asking the federal Bureau of Land Management to approve the bulldozing and carving of a new 4-lane highway through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The request comes less than a dozen years after Congress designated the conservation area to protect habitat for the imperiled Mojave desert tortoise, which has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1990.
Construction of the highway, known as the Northern Corridor, would harm much of this key habitat for the threatened tortoise. The new highway would also exacerbate impacts of a July 2020 wildfire that tore through 12,000 acres of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, which as the local paper pointed out, impacted desert shrubs, herbs, grasses, cacti, and wildflowers that serve as shelter and food for the threatened tortoise. The truth is that the highway is unnecessary and would increase the already rapid pace of human expansion into southwest Utah.
The Red Cliffs are the northeast extent of the range of Mojave desert tortoise and a stronghold for the species. While these creatures can live up to 80 years, they don’t reach reproductive maturity until around 15 year-old and they are very sensitive to habitat changes, which means that their populations grow slowly. The tortoise’s overall population has long been declining and the Northern Corridor highway would fuel further decline in several significant ways.
The 4-lane highway would permanently restrict tortoises’ ability to migrate within the National Conservation Area, which could lead to the complete loss of local sub-populations. And while federal officials would attempt to gather up tortoises in the path of the highway and relocate them before bulldozers started rolling, the effort would largely serve as PR rather than preservation. Science has shown that re-located tortoises have very poor survival rates and other tortoises wouldn’t be found and would be crushed by heavy equipment during construction.
Utah’s Department of Transportation wants the public to believe the new highway is needed to reduce snarled traffic in rapidly growing St. George. But real-world experience shows us that any short-term reduction in traffic congestion provided by the Northern Corridor would hasten further sprawl around St. George, ultimately offsetting the short-term traffic benefits. And the Bureau of Land Management’s own environmental analysis identifies an alternative route that not only avoids the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area entirely but would be more effective at reducing traffic congestion in the long term.
September 10 is the deadline to tell the Bureau of Land Management to act in the best interest of public lands and threatened wildlife. Click here to ask the Bureau to reject Utah’s request for an unnecessary and harmful 4-lane highway through this desert tortoise stronghold.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was written to protect and recover jeopardized species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ESA is worded to proceed on the side of caution, affording species protection over not. For that reason, Congress provided an additional avenue to expedite species’ listings by amending the Act to allow for citizen petitions to list.
Citizens can petition U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (commonly referred to as “the Services”) to list any unprotected species as threatened or endangered. Citizen groups generally have a more personal connection with the petitioned species as a result of geographical knowledge and recreational interests, therefore making them ideal advocates for at-risk species. The Services then have 90 days from receipt of a petition to determine whether listing “may be warranted” and have 12 months from receipt of a petition to make a final listing determination.
In response to an overwhelming number of species that need protection, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service created a Workplan that allows them to evaluate and prioritize listing decisions. Today, over 550 species are still awaiting listing determinations with the Workplan in place. Delays to list species are increasing, with the Service taking years to issue final listing determinations that are mandated to only take 12 months.
WildEarth Guardians initiated a lawsuit against the Service in order to have five Western River species listed. These species are still awaiting 12-month listing determinations and have been for four to seven years. Regardless of the Services’ exceedance of their statutory deadlines, citizen petitions play a valuable role in identifying at-risk species. The majority of species that have been listed or are awaiting ESA protections are a result of citizen petitions. WildEarth Guardians continues to fight for species’ protection and to force the Service’s hand to list.
Victoria Frankeny is a third-year law student at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. She interned with the legal team at WildEarth Guardians assisting in litigation and providing legal research.
Despite devastating reports of catastrophic species loss, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing a second round of regulations to undercut the Endangered Species Act—our nation’s most effective law for saving imperiled wildlife from extinction.
This new proposal would limit the ability of federal agencies to establish “critical habitat” for listed species by adding a new, narrow definition of “habitat,” hampering species protection. Sign our petition opposing this rule change.
At a time of unprecedented global mass extinction, it is unconscionable that the Trump administration continues to roll back protections for our most imperiled species. The ability to restore potential or future habitat to support the recovery of threatened and endangered species is a crucial tool to actually save species from extinction. This is yet another effort by the Trump administration to dismantle the ESA and cater to the interests of the resource extraction industry and developers, despite the cost to wildlife.
The administration is moving forward with its new extinction plan even as the country is grappling with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Undermining the Endangered Species Act erodes our ability to protect against future pandemics. Decades of scientific studies have warned that—in addition to live wildlife markets—habitat destruction and biodiversity loss create significant risk of zoonotic disease spillover into the human population. The Endangered Species Act is our most effective tool for protecting biodiversity.
Wildlife needs your voice! Tell the administration this rollback is unacceptable and species conservation is more important now than ever. Join us in opposing this new attack on the Endangered Species Act.