WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

Colorado, like most western states, was once a haven for an incredible array of wildlife including native carnivores like wolves, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and wolverines. The government-sanctioned and funded war on wildlife over the last two centuries rendered many of these species either extinct in the Centennial State or barely hanging on. But, the past year has provided a glimmer of hope that times are changing as Colorado voters and decision-makers have begun to create a (hopefully) more hospitable place for wildlife.

The biggest sign of change—and a real reason for wildlife enthusiasts to be excited—is of course the passing of Proposition 114 in November of 2020. The ballot measure directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to bring the gray wolf back to Colorado, where it has been largely absent since the 1940s. How and where exactly reintroduction will happen is still up for much input and debate. And we can be sure that anti-wildlife interests will be fervent in advocating that wolves be hunted, trapped, lethally “managed,” and otherwise persecuted. Guardians will be there howling for wolves to be safe, protected, and bountiful enough to work their ecosystem magic across the state.

Another win for wildlife in Colorado that may have flown under the public radar, but that is critical for conservation: Governor Polis recently signed three bills into law to provide much-needed funding for CPW to protect the state’s diverse wildlife, habitat and park system. What’s particularly noteworthy about these new laws is that they will allow the general public to provide funding for wildlife conservation, not just hunters and anglers, who have historically paid for and directed state wildlife agencies.

The Keep Colorado Wild Pass Initiative, Wolf Reintroduction Funding With No License Fees, and Colorado State Parks and Public Lands Colorado Comeback Stimulus will all put public money into wildlife conservation efforts. These three pieces of legislation don’t wholly breakup the unholy grip that sportsmen have on CPW. But they are a start toward a wildlife agency that should be more accountable to the public—most of whom believe in the intrinsic value of wildlife and coexistence with wildlife—rather than a small subset of Coloradans.

Finally, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appears to be getting more diverse both in terms of demographic representation and backgrounds and ideologies. Most wildlife and game commissions in the western U.S. are dominated by males, white people, hunters, and agricultural representatives. This dynamic is a symptom of broader history and, of course, funding. Since his election, Governor Polis has done well to change the status quo, appointing commissioners who might be considered outsiders and who better represent Colorado as a whole.

But it’s not all good news—it rarely is on the wildlife front! The amount of pushback that Commissioner Jay Tuchton—a seasoned and outspoken wildlife advocate—received during senate confirmation was a stark reminder that parts of Colorado are still stuck in a time when wildlife was the enemy and only hunters, trappers, and ranchers had a say in how CPW should deal with animals.

And a recent scandal helped illuminate how much of that antipathy towards wildlife, especially wolves, exists among CPW staff. JT Romatzke is a high-ranking agency official who was caught trying to undermine the wolf reintroduction effort and managed to keep his job—while a whistelblower lost his. Audio recordings of Romatzke outlining his subversion also indicate that he and other staffers are not ready for a new, modern CPW Commission. He is heard calling Commissioner Tutchton and Commissioner Taishya Adams “these people,” insinuating that they don’t belong making decisions for CPW. Commissioner Adams is a black woman and Commissioner Tutchton used to represent WildEarth Guardians to protect wildlife.

Leadership is changing, but CPW clearly still has a culture problem that will likely act as a roadblock for real wildlife progress. Mountain lions can now be hunted with the aid of electronic calls in certain parts of the state, a clear regression in policy. Colorado’s vaunted trapping ban is filled with loopholes. And transparency is a major issue as groups and journalists often face unreasonable hurdles to obtaining information that should publicly available.

There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that Colorado continues to become more hospitable for once-persecuted native carnivores. But there are reasons to be optimistic thanks to Governor Polis and the current roster of CPW Commissioners. Together with you and our allies, WildEarth Guardians will continue working to ensure that wildlife is protected—and respected—in Colorado and throughout the American West.

Like what you just read? Sign up for our E-news. Want to do more? Visit our Action Center.

It’s hard to imagine a name less befitting the grandeur of the endangered grouse than “lesser prairie chicken.” Trifling grouse, maybe? Boring ground bird? It’s hard to say which is the worst. All of them fall far short in capturing the striking physical appearance and peculiar mating behavior of the prairie denizen.

Sure, the lesser prairie chicken wambles a bit in flight because of a body that looks like a partially deflated balloon. But this bird also boasts coral-colored throat sacs, bright orange eye combs, and expressive ear tufts that stand up like a headdress when the male is engaged in pageantry and droop in hangdog fashion following a rejection or a defeat in battle. In a weird way, the incongruity between the prairie chicken’s plump shape and brilliant adornments only adds to its allure. It’s nature’s equivalent of the family station wagon tricked out with racing stripes and a rear spoiler. It’s impossible not to watch as it cruises by.

The lesser prairie chicken’s mating behavior might be even more fascinating than its appearance. When lesser prairie-chickens lek (breed), a whole host of males will compete for some personal space in the sand sage so that they can entice females to view an elaborate mating display. The few females that dare enter this obstreperous battle ground are pursued relentlessly, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the human dating scene. The males will puff and stunt and grapple as they struggle for attention. Erratic clashes send peppery feathers flying through the air to get caught in the grama stalks and sagebrush. The bird becomes a blaze of sunset colors as he stamps, shuffles, and bobs among the buffalo grass. He will genuflect before a female, wings spread out on the ground, his tail lifted. Or perhaps he’ll perform a flutter jump with quick flaps of striped wings. The dance is a signal of both fitness and intelligence, and females choose the prospective mate with the smartest moves.

The sweetness of the song matters, too, and males will trill and chortle in their attempt to win a female chicken’s approval. When male chickens pin their heads forward to make a slow, seductive approach, they flare their tails and peak their ear feathers as their throats grow swollen with a booming vibrato song. A male will squeak, cackle, drum, and gobble, and his voice will rise in an excited “pike call” when he feels the time is ripe to woo a mate. His boom can travel a mile across the plains, sounding like approaching thunder. If a competitor interrupts, the birds break back into combat with stabbing beaks and swinging wings. When the feathers clear, the victor gets right back to dancing and singing.

It’s a ritual that might seem better suited to the rainforest, where the far more charitably named superb bird of paradise struts his stuff. Or maybe you’d expect such grandiose behavior from the more positively monikered bowerbird—who will adorn his tiny palace of sticks with colorful litter and show off his wing flicks when a potential mate comes to scope out his digs. But, unlike the Bowerbirds, you won’t find an Indie band calling themselves the Lesser Prairie Chickens, at least not without a heavy dose of irony. The hidden cost of such a misnomer is that those unacquainted with the lesser prairie chicken’s humble majesties find it easy to subject the bird to scorn or depict it as insignificant. After all, what’s one little chicken against the tide of economic progress?

Quite a lot, actually. For one, the lesser prairie chicken’s decline can teach us important lessons about the sensitivity and interdependence of ecosystems. The deliberate eradication of bison and prairie dogs, and the suppression of naturally occurring wildfires, allowed mesquite, redcedar, and other woody plants to pervade the shortgrass prairie, disrupting prairie chicken breeding and nesting grounds. Mess with even one player in an ecosystem, and watch the rest suffer. If the losses snowball? Well, the extinction of the lesser prairie chicken could serve as a tipping point for the collapse of an iconic American landscape. Such is the peril of eliminating species that have existed on the American prairie for tens of thousands of years.

The lesser prairie chicken also serves as a herald for the precarity of its prairie habitats. When climatic and habitat conditions are favorable for the lesser prairie chicken, livestock fares well. When things are rough for the prairie chicken, ranchers and farmers can expect a hard season. In other words, the herd does as the bird does.

Despite the prairie chicken’s clear role in supporting human endeavors, we’ve responded by decimating its habitat, chopping it up with cropland, livestock grazing areas, fences, oil and gas wells, powerlines (which provide a perch for birds of prey), buildings, and roads. We’ve diminished the lesser prairie chicken’s habitat by 85%, and as a result their population has declined by as much as 99% in some ecoregions. Of the remaining habitat patches, only around .1% are sufficiently unfragmented to sustain even a minimum population of lesser prairie chickens. A decade ago, an already diminished lesser prairie chicken population declined by half in a single year. The threats to the bird are myriad. Lesser prairie chickens succumb to fungus-based biotoxins that fester in waste grains and watch their eggs get thrashed by harvesting equipment or get roasted in their nests by soaring temperatures. Lesser prairie chickens are hardy and can typically satisfy their water needs on dew and sand sage, but in times of drought, which climate change is making more frequent and severe, they seek out larger water sources, where more predators lurk in wait.

Field studies have suggested that oil and gas development could completely eliminate lesser prairie chicken populations. This is because the birds don’t just avoid the roads built to access stations or the wellpads themselves, but flee the entire oil and gas field. The birds despise the wellfield noise and oil-well-wastewater.

Rather than support a bird whose diet is primarily comprised of insects that damage crops, and whose wellbeing is a bellwether for the health of an entire ecosystem, some still argue that we should give priority to the same fossil fuel interests we’ve propped up with tax and energy policies for a century—despite the enormous profits the industry already reaps and the enormous damage it inflicts. In one year, the 1,800 largest fossil fuel companies made $500 billion in profits, yet they still received direct subsidies totaling $700 billion. That astronomical number doesn’t even include the health and environmental costs of pollution that are passed on to the public. The estimates for subsidies can climb as high as $5 trillion per year when all the damages that will occur as a result of climate-related events are accounted for. Fossil fuel companies then use those subsidies to quash environmental protection efforts.

But it’s the environmental protection efforts that work and the subsidies that don’t. Ninety-nine percent of species granted Endangered Species Act protections have avoided extinction, and concerted conservation efforts have been successful at boosting the lesser prairie chicken population levels in recent years. In contrast, fossil fuel subsidies have forever failed to improve production or create jobs. They’re so ineffective that the costs, in terms of public health and production lost due to pollution, actually exceed the value of the subsidies.

Don’t be fooled by fearmongering—the only way to gain true energy independence is to ditch fossil fuels. Endangered Species Act protections are stiff, so the proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken as endangered in its southern range and threatened in the northern grasslands could play a huge role in shutting off the wellspring of wasted money taxpayers gift to fossil fuel executives, a gratuity that comes at the expense of taxpayer’s own health and the wellbeing of their environments.

The lesser prairie chicken is anything but trifling or boring, and a grouse by any other name would sing as sweetly. It’s past time we stopped propping up industries that pollute our prairies and started supporting the animals that lend them song and color. For heaven is here where the prairie chicken lives.

Like what you just read? Sign up for our E-news. Want to do more? Visit our Action Center.

The rugged Centennial Mountains on the Idaho-Montana border are inhabited by grizzly bears, wolves, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, and other vulnerable wildlife.

Unfortunately, the Centennial Mountains are also home to the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, an anachronistic domestic sheep “experiment” plunked in the middle of these wild public lands, which makes it a dangerous—and too often deadly—place for imperiled native wildlife.

It’s way beyond time to stop experimenting with domestic sheep in the Centennial Mountains, so please contact Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and demand he repurposes the Sheep Station to protect wildlife.

WildEarth Guardians and our allies recently scored a victory in federal court that gives hope to the native wildlife dependent on the Centennial Mountains. The judge ruled against a U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to graze domestic sheep in and around the Sheep Station. The all-important question remains whether the federal government will now recognize that this ecologically-detrimental Sheep Station has long outlived its purpose.

Founded over 100 years ago, when domestic sheep production had a much larger national importance, the Sheep Station is a dangerous place for native wildlife. The Sheep Station presents dangers such as domestic sheep transmitting fatal pneumonia to native bighorn sheep herds and likely hostility towards grizzly bears—such as in 2012 when an illegally killed grizzly bear’s radio collar was found tucked beneath a log in a stream on the Sheep Station.

It’s long overdue for the federal government to honestly assess the impacts to the region’s iconic wildlife against the minimal value the domestic Sheep Station provides. The Centennial Mountains are a critical wildlife corridor, connecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to other wild public lands to the north and west, and the Sheep Station therefore threatens wildlife populations far beyond this remote mountain range.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack already in his first term under the Obama administration acknowledged that the Sheep Station no longer makes sense. Now, for the sake of the many populations of wildlife dependent on these remote mountains, it is time to stop the dangerous experiment in this important habitat.

Take action today and demand that Secretary Vilsack repurpose the Sheep Station to protect bighorns, grizzlies, wolves, and sage grouse.

After years of enduring—and fighting—federal rollbacks on America’s bedrock conservation laws and protections of public lands and waters, we are on the cusp of a much needed and inspiring change of course.

President Biden has signed an Executive Order directing the Interior Department to outline steps to achieve the president’s commitment to conserve at least 30% of America’s lands and waters by the year 2030.

The 30×30 Initiative, as it’s commonly called, is sorely needed as America—and the world—confronts the dual threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. Thankfully, thus far, over 450 elected officials from across the country, and political spectrum, have affirmed their support for 30×30.

To meet this ambitious and necessary goal we have work to do. Despite the heroic efforts of individuals, communities, and organizations, America has only permanently protected 12% of U.S. lands according to the U.S. Geological Survey. On top of having a long way to go, we’re still digging ourselves into a hole because America is losing a football field worth of land in a natural state every 30 seconds, or 2,170 square miles annually.

This decline of nature threatens our health, food supplies, biodiversity, and wildlife. Across the globe, approximately one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, including one-third of U.S. wildlife. In the U.S. and Canada alone, bird populations have dropped 29 percent since 1970. America’s rivers and oceans remain in grave peril, and we’ve already lost over half of all freshwater and saltwater wetlands. Habitat loss and destruction of migratory corridors are pushing many species closer to the brink. Clearly, we don’t need more data to see that urgent action is required.

Achieving the 30×30 vision is essential to protecting life on earth and the initiative’s climate and biodiversity goals are inextricably linked. When we protect land, we provide the habitats needed for ecological processes to support the diversity of life while simultaneously capturing carbon. Reaching 30×30 goals will also provide and grow green jobs, protect culturally significant sites, increase access to nature for historically marginalized communities, and safeguard vital headwaters for people, communities, and wildlife.

The 30×30 Initiative presents opportunities to reinstate protections of national treasurers stripped away by the Trump administration, such as the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

But we must do more. One of the boldest ways to help reach 30×30 goals would be passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA). This visionary act, which was developed by leading conservation biologists, would designate 23 million acres of Wilderness for some of the wildest public lands remaining in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon.

NREPA would also designate 1,800 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, preserve old-growth forests that will act as a carbon sink to counteract greenhouse gas emissions, and establish biological and wildlife corridors, which are critical for the continued existence of the region’s iconic wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolverines, bull trout, sage grouse, the nation’s largest herd of wild bison, and the country’s few remaining woodland caribou.

Increasingly, Americans want to heal the scars from resource exploitation by rewilding public lands and NREPA will establish wildland “recovery areas” on federal public lands that will create sustainable jobs undoing the damage caused by destructive activities like logging and roadbuilding.

The crises of our time require bold solutions. We must protect at least 30% of our nation’s lands and waters and the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act is a solution we must grasp to help preserve life on Earth.

Please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to co-sponsor and pass the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.

Like what you just read? Sign up for our E-news. Want to do more? Visit our Action Center.


WildEarth Guardians was in court today defending grizzly bears and wild places on the Flathead National Forest. Check out the video above to see what our staff attorney, Marla Fox, had to say as she exited the federal courthouse in Missoula, Montana immediately following the court hearing.

The Flathead National Forest in northwestern Montana is a crown jewel of America’s public lands. Bordering Glacier National Park and Canada, the national forest contains some of the most intact wildlands and free-flowing rivers in the country and is a key part of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. The Flathead is a refuge for many imperiled species—including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, gray wolves, wolverine, and bull trout. Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service’s revised Forest Plan, which will guide all future forest activities for the next 15 years or more, is prioritizing resource extraction activities that destroy habitats and disturb wildlife—industrial logging, road building, motorized wreckreation, and livestock grazing.

That’s why WildEarth Guardians and our allies have sued the U.S. Forest Service, challenging the revised Flathead Forest Plan for failing to take a hard look at the plan’s impacts on grizzly bears and wild places. We’re also challenging the Forest Service’s decision to adopt a decade-old winter travel plan without considering new winter travel planning requirements and changes in the status of imperiled species and habitat since it was first adopted, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that the Flathead Forest Plan isn’t dangerous to grizzly bears and other wildlife, and the habitat they need to survive.

This lawsuit is another prime example of WildEarth Guardians’ relentless defense of grizzly bears and wild public lands. Guardians like you have been with us every step of the way, previously submitting thousands of comments to the U.S. Forest Service during the Flathead Forest Plan revision process and speaking out in support of grizzlies. Thank you!

Please also consider making a donation to our Grizzly Bear Defense Fund.
Every dollar raised will be put to work defending grizzlies and preserving habitat on public lands. We will never stop fighting for grizzly bears, and with you at our side, we will guard the Great Bear.

Guardians’ staff outside of Missoula Courthouse, Missoula, MT, May 27, 2021. L-R: Jeremy Nichols, Marla Fox, Adam Rissien, Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, and Sarah McMillan.

Like what you just read? Sign up for our E-news. Want to do more? Visit our Action Center

Two American crown jewels were at risk. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the grizzly bears that animate Yellowstone and its surrounding landscapes.

The U.S. Forest Service wanted to unleash bulldozers and logging equipment to create a lasting, Manhattan-sized scar on the Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana. Bulldozers would have fragmented critical grizzly habitat with new roads and chainsaws would have clearcut native forests—right at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. In the midst of a biodiversity crisis, no less.

Then WildEarth Guardians sprang into action. Together with our allies, in fierce defense of this important habitat, we challenged this huge clearcutting and roadbuilding plan just outside of the world’s first national park. Then, on May 13, the Forest Service announced that it was halting this misguided project—providing a respite for grizzly bears, lynx, pine martens, and wolverines and preserving solitude and wildness along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. We did this together.

If the Forest Service tries to revive this clearcutting and roadbuilding scheme, we’ll continue standing against it. That’s what Guardians do. Protect the vulnerable.

Fact is, WildEarth Guardians has been—and always will be—relentless in our defense of grizzly bears and the secure habitat they need to survive and thrive. And you’ve been with us every step of the way. Guardians like you have submitted tens of thousands of comments in defense of the Great Bear. You supported our lawsuit to retain Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and our lawsuit seeking to end the unethical practice of bear-baiting on national forests in Wyoming and Idaho. You’ve raised your voice to protect bears from proposed trophy hunts and demanded that Burlington Northern Railway “brake” to give grizzlies a “break” on tracks bordering Glacier National Park.

Any sports fan knows “Defense wins championships.” At Guardians, we know that relentless defense saves grizzly bears.

Please support our Grizzly Bear Defense Fund today with a gift of $25, $100, $250, or whatever you can and know that your dollars will be put to work defending grizzlies and preserving habitat on public lands.

We will never stop fighting for grizzly bears. With you at our side—and your generous support—we will guard the Great Bear.

Like what you read? Sign up for our E-news. Want to do more? Visit our Action Center

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 protections 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.

Like what you read? Sign up for our E-news. Want to do more? Visit our Action Center

While the existential plight of the polar bear losing its critical habitat to climate change is well known, fewer of us are aware of a similar predicament facing one of the most iconic and beloved species in our backyard: the Joshua tree.

Already stressed by a changing climate, the pre-historic Joshua tree has been pushed even farther toward the brink of impending extinction by two recent events. During last summer’s devastating California wildfire season, a three-day wildfire furiously swept across the Joshua tree range, dealing a cruel blow to an already imperiled species. The blaze burned 43,273 acres—25 percent of the contiguous Joshua tree forest—that included roughly 1.3 million of the iconic trees. With the proliferation of highly flammable non-native grasses, coupled with a warmer and drier climate, such fires have been forecast to occur with more frequency and intensity in the decades to come.

Though they are long-lived, hardy desert plants, Joshua trees only thrive within a narrow window of environmental conditions. In the decades ahead, the land where those conditions will exist will shift far faster than the trees themselves will be able to naturally move through germination. To ensure the survival of these slow-moving plants, we need to protect their current and future range both by generally addressing greenhouse gas emissions and by specifically curtailing damaging human activities—such as off-roading, overgrazing, or building large-scale energy projects—in places critical to their survival. The most effective way to protect this habitat is by placing the Joshua tree on the list of threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

This leads to the second devastating blow to the Joshua tree in recent years: the 2019 decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to deny a petition to list the Joshua tree as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, scientists had abundant evidence that increasing temperatures were already causing the species’ range to contract. Climate models show this loss could become significantly worse over the next few decades as prolonged drought takes hold and the frequency and intensity of wildfires increases. In several of the most current climate models, the zone of appropriate climate for the tree will shift drastically by century’s end and, in the most severe scenario, we will witness a 90 percent reduction of its distribution in its range starting in 2070. Despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s standard to employ the “best available science,” and despite the clear mandate of the Endangered Species Act to protect both flora and fauna from extinction, the federal government decided to bury its head in the desert sand, ignore the evidence, and conclude that the Joshua tree had “enough resiliency” to survive the years ahead.

The Joshua tree, along with the plants and animals that depend on it and the many nature lovers that enjoy being near it, need the Fish and Wildlife Service to reverse its decision. The stakes could not be clearer: inaction means that, within many of our lifetimes, Joshua Tree National Park may very well lose the park’s namesake.

To avoid such a lamentable day, WildEarth Guardians is challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service in court. You can lend your support to our lawsuit by urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to take action. We must act swiftly by listing the Joshua tree under the federal Endangered Species Act and, more broadly, by acting to substantially curb greenhouse gas emissions. Such action will give these ancient desert dwellers a fighting chance to survive.

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.


(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.