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.
Last spring, at the height of some of the most anxiety-ridden moments of the pandemic, my father read a poem to me over the phone. He’s 89 this year, and while he’s vibrant and healthy I don’t take for granted any opportunity to hear his voice — especially when he’s reciting a poem.
The poem, Mary Oliver’s Spring, describes the emergence of a black bear from its winter slumber. Oliver writes: “There is only one question: how to love this world.”
This spring, as bruins emerged across the American West, I found myself wondering about the secret lives bears lead. As their hunger grows, do they imagine eating trout from a Rocky Mountain stream?
Is it hunger pangs or some deeper yearning — perhaps to experience the new world – that drives bears from the comfort and warmth of their dens?
I’ve been thinking about bears and how to love their world because bear-management-practices have been in the spotlight recently, a light that intensified after two people were killed by bears, one in Montana and one in Colorado.
The death of those people was tragic. Yet, we must remember that fatal attacks remain rare. A bear does not wake up in the morning, pack a rifle, and set out to kill a human being. Bears struggle to survive in an increasingly diminishing wild that brings them in contact with humans more frequently.
Humanity’s mission, I believe, is not to kill them but to find ways to coexist.
On April 30, Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill that allows hunters to use hounds to hunt black bears in the spring, when they’re with cubs and ravenous for food. This is the same governor who illegally trapped and killed one of Yellowstone’s iconic wolves.
One of the bills’ key sponsors, state Sen. Tom MacGillivray, offered a consistent refrain about bears: “Over the last seven, eight years we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the whitetail population, and, interestingly enough, a dramatic increase in the black bear population,” he said. “This bill helps to balance that out.”
Not a shred of science supports this contention. There’s a long-standing war on carnivores and blaming bears is a convenient excuse for what ails the deer and the deer hunter’s world. In reality, a complex host of factors including habitat loss due to sprawl, climate change and other dynamics are to blame.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, a federal judge struck down a controversial plan supported by the state’s wildlife agency, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department, to “study” whether killing black bears — and mountain lions — would benefit mule deer. Sadly, the judge’s ruling denying federal funding of the bear-killing plan came too late for the dozens of Colorado bears that were killed in the study, one the agency’s scientists had to know was laden with anti-carnivore bias.
Though Colorado and Montana are worlds apart on the political spectrum, the hostility towards bears and other carnivores is a tie that binds, whether it originates in a state legislature or in the state agency charged with managing wildlife.
At a time when the attitudes of most Montanans, Coloradans and Americans at large are shifting dramatically to favor greater coexistence with fanged creatures, those in power over the lives of wild animals are digging in their heels. Instead of figuring out how to live with them, Montana and Colorado are making it easier to kill bears.
The word poetry comes from the Greek poetes, meaning “to create.” Whenever possible, I believe we should attempt to create opportunities for all life to thrive. It pains me that often those at the state level responsible for overseeing the management of wildlife seem to take more pleasure in the destruction of bears than in figuring out better ways for humans to coexist with them.
Wildlife management needs a new reason to exist, one that isn’t based on killing. Its mission might read like this: We aim to protect wildlife, making no distinction between predator and prey. We aim to enhance that sense of wonder most of us experience when we see animals in the wild.
And instead of taking more courses in traditional wildlife management, the profession might consider including reading some of the best American poetry inspired by nature and the creatures that depend on still-wild places.
They could start with Mary Oliver’s Spring.
This piece originally was published by Writers on the Range, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West.
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.
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.
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.
Protected habitat for iconic species like the grizzly bear, wolverine, sage grouse, bull trout, Canada lynx, and gray wolf. Preserved old-growth forests that will act as a carbon sink to counteract greenhouse gas emissions. Designation of 23 million acres of public land as Wilderness and 1,800 miles of rivers and streams as Wild and Scenic. Establishment of biological corridors, preserving the migration patterns of native animals and allowing ecosystems to flourish.
These are just some of the benefits of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA).
WildEarth Guardians is proud to endorse this visionary bill and now we need your help to make this bill a reality. Write your members of Congress today and urge them to co-sponsor and pass NREPA.
As you hear us often say, the environmental crises of our time—climate, nature, and extinction—require bold, systemic solutions that work for people and the planet.
While some may dismiss NREPA as just a wilderness bill, it does much more. NREPA establishes a number of wildland “recovery areas” on federal public lands that will create sustainable jobs undoing the damage caused by destructive activities like logging and roadbuilding. For decades, Guardians has worked to erase the scars from resource exploitation by rewilding public lands and waters and NREPA will help achieve our vision of healthy, connected wild places for wildlife and people.
NREPA also complements President Biden’s executive order to put America on the path to protecting 30 percent of its land and ocean areas by 2030. The bill will significantly advance the goals of the Green New Deal and help the U.S. meet its contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement. As an added bonus, NREPA also will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by eliminating heavily subsidized logging and road building in wildlands that would serve more essential functions as Wilderness.
Join us in supporting the visionary Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act—write your members of Congress today.
You can also learn more about NREPA by watching the inspiring Earth Day Eve conversation we had with Carole King and Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
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.
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!