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 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!
I’d like to share some good news for public lands, wilderness, wildlife habitat, and the rule of law.
Just one day after WildEarth Guardians and our partners filed a lawsuit, the Bureau of Land Management rescinded a last-minute Trump administration decision permitting an unqualified ranching company to graze cattle on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon.
These public lands grazing allotments are on the ancestral homeland of the Burns Paiute Tribe and the Northern Paiute and the Western Shoshone peoples. The lands include designated wilderness and other wilderness-quality lands that contain a trove of cultural resources, as well as important habitat for imperiled sage grouse, redband trout, and other species.
On his last day in office—the day before Inauguration Day—former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt rushed to grant public land grazing privileges to Dwight and Steven Hammond. Bernhardt cut short, and unlawfully ignored, public participation and failed to consider impacts to native species, cultural resources, and wilderness.
The Hammond’s previous grazing permit had been revoked after the father and son were convicted of intentionally setting fire to public lands in 2012. In 2016, insurrectionists cited that conviction when they took up arms and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days.
While Guardians will continue advocating for public lands grazing reform, one important action you can take right now is to raise your voice to make sure the federal government holds law-breakers and scofflaws accountable, rather than granting them special favors and treatment.
As always, you can count on Guardians to protect wildlands and critical wildlife habitat while we also defend the rights of everyone to have an equal say in how America’s public lands are managed.
As promised, WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the Trump administration’s decision to prematurely strip gray wolves of federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections across the entire lower 48 states. The notice, filed on November 6, starts a 60-day clock, after which Guardians and our coalition will file a lawsuit in federal court.
The most recent data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and its state partners show an estimated 4,400 wolves inhabit the western Great Lakes states, but only 108 wolves in Washington state, 158 in Oregon, and a scant 15 in California. Nevada, Utah, and Colorado have had a few wolf sightings over the past three years, but wolves remain functionally extinct in these states. These numbers lay the groundwork for a legal challenge planned by a coalition of Western conservation groups.
“As we’ve seen over the past week, counting and numbers are not a strength of the Trump administration,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “No matter how you try to spin the data, wolves do not even inhabit 20 percent of historic range. This is not true recovery under the Endangered Species Act and a clear violation of the law.”
In delisting wolves, USFWS ignores the science showing they are not recovered in the West. The USFWS concluded that because in its belief there are sufficient wolves in the Great Lakes states, it does not matter that wolves in the West are not yet recovered. The ESA demands more, including restoring the species in the ample suitable habitats afforded by the wild public lands throughout the West. Wolves only occupy a small portion of available, suitable habitat in Oregon and Washington, and remain absent across vast swaths of their historical habitat in the West, including in Colorado and the southern Rockies.
The restoration of gray wolves could be a heroic success story, but it will be cut tragically short if wolves lose further protection under the ESA now. We can’t let fragile wolf-recovery efforts to be stalled and allow states, hunters, and trappers to push the species back to the brink of extinction without a fight. Please support Guardians’ Wolf Defense Fund with a gift today and help us ensure gray wolves have a future.
One other thing you can do is sign this petition urging the incoming Biden administration to immediately take action on January 20 to halt the impending slaughter and begin the process of restoring ESA protections for gray wolves. After you sign, make sure to share the petition with your family, friends, and networks. Thank you!
In a major win for wildlife in Montana, WildEarth Guardians settled our lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in May, after the federal program agreed to severely curtail its slaughter of native wildlife and the use of cruel tools such as snares, traps, and poisons in Montana.
For those unfamiliar with Wildlife Services, this multimillion-dollar federal program annually kills an average of about 1,500,000 native wildlife species nationally. Relying on taxpayer dollars for its killing campaigns, Wildlife Services often uses costly methods such as “aerial gunning” to launch preemptive strikes on thousands of native carnivores—before there has been any actual conflict with humans or livestock.
In Montana alone, over just the past three years, Wildlife Services has reported killing 152 wolves, four grizzly bears, 52 mountain lions, 18 black bears, 320 foxes and more than 20,000 coyotes.
Wildlife Services has not considered the environmental impacts of its “predator damage control” program since the mid-1990s, and even then, it relied on science that dated to the 1970’s and ‘80’s. And the killing has continued unabated. More current science establishes that lethal management is ineffective at preventing conflict. And the significant impact on ecosystems of such indiscriminate killing of carnivores calls into question the entire program. In the midst of the sixth great extinction, during which species are disappearing at an alarming rate, it is irresponsible and unethical to use indiscriminate and cruel tools to kill wildlife. This is particularly true when coexistence practices exist that are proven to be effective at conflict prevention.
Our May 2020 settlement with Wildlife Services requires a new environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in Montana and, meanwhile, requires the following protections:
No killing in Wilderness areas, Wilderness Study Areas managed by the Forest Service, Wild & Scenic River corridors, Research Natural Areas, or Areas of Critical Environmental Concern in Montana;
No killing of cougars or black bears on any federal lands;
No more M-44s (sodium cyanide bombs) on any public lands, or private lands in 41 of 56 Montana counties;
No more lethal gas cartridges can be used to destroy denning wildlife like coyotes, fox, or prairie dogs on public lands;
Increased public transparency.
Over the last five years, litigation by Guardians and partners against Wildlife Services has resulted in settlement agreements and legal victories in Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, all curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and making the program accountable for its activities. And we are not stopping now. Guardians has active litigation against Wildlife Services in Colorado and Idaho, and we are continuing to monitor Wildlife Services’ activities across the West, ready to take on the federal killing program in order to protect vulnerable wildlife.
Montana’s majestic wildlife is part of what makes this state so special. Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate, inhumane, and pointless killing of wildlife cuts against the values of most people. It’s time to bring this killing program out of the shadows, into this century, and start working towards true coexistence with the wildlife that makes Montana wild and wonderful.
As wildfires burn in parts of California and the Pacific Northwest, we could all use some good news like the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voting to ban wildlife killing contests by a 7-2 vote on September 11, 2020. The ban prohibits wildlife killing contests involving any species that could be killed in unlimited numbers, or without a “bag limit,” including coyotes. This is great news for Washington where, over a five-year span, killing contests resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 coyotes.
Because of wildlife advocates like you, coyotes will be spared from this fate for years to come. A special shout-out to over 2,000 WildEarth Guardians members and supporters who told the Fish and Wildlife Commission to end these cruel wildlife killing contests.
Not only is this win great news for Washington, it represents tremendous momentum in our efforts to end the war on wildlife across the West. Washington joins Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Vermont in banning this brutal blood sport. Notably, five of these bans happened in the last 18 months alone—demonstrating strong public support for the ethical treatment of wildlife moving with unstoppable energy throughout the country.
We thank the wildlife commissioners and committed wildlife advocates who demanded an end to these contests across a broad swath of the American West. But our fight isn’t over. Guardians believes that killing contests have no place in our society and envisions a future in which wildlife killing contests are banned nationwide.
Thank you to all who helped drive this over the line in Washington and in other states! Slowly but surely, we are stopping the cruelty and remaking the American West into a hospitable place for native wildlife.
Trump’s Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue flew into Missoula on June 12 to sign a memorandum directing the U.S. Forest Service to essentially double-down on its continued push to prioritize logging, mining, drilling and grazing, all while limiting environmental reviews. During the campaign-style signing event, Secretary Perdue—a former agribusiness CEO whose previous political campaigns were bankrolled by Monsanto and Big Ag interests—not only bragged that “we see trees as a crop,” but also ironically compared America’s bedrock environmental laws to “bubble wrap.” Apparently it was lost on Secretary Perdue that bubble wrap protects valuable things from being destroyed.
Missing from the secretary’s statements was any recognition that America’s national forests, 193 million acres in all, are actually diverse ecosystems that are home to hundreds of imperiled fish and wildlife species, and contain the last remnants of wildlands in this country that millions of people cherish. The secretary failed to mention how numerous communities rely on national forests to provide clean drinking water, or the fact that intact forests do more to remove atmospheric carbon than do stumps. In fact, national forests have a crucial role to play as part of global, natural climate change solutions.
Returning to the past, when resource extraction and exploitation ruled the land is hardly a blueprint for the future. Yet, this is exactly what the secretary ordered and what the Trump administration has been pursuing from Day One. In fact, Perdue’s memorandum comes on the heels of two recent Trump Executive Orders allowing industry and federal agencies to waive compliance with long-standing environmental laws that safeguard fish and wildlife. These orders follow Trump’s wholesale rolling back of rules requiring federal agencies to involve the public, take a hard look at the environmental consequences of its actions, and consider alternatives.
A recent Journal of Forestry article demonstrates the rationale for these rollbacks and attacks is baseless. Even without further “streamlining processes,” the Forest Service approved over 80% of projects between 2005-2018 by categorically excluding them from environmental analysis. The same study also showed that less than 1% of all projects were challenged in court.
Of course, this administration and industry proponents would never let facts change their story, especially when it plays on people’s fears and hopes. For years, those opposed to public land protection keep weaving nostalgic hints of returning to the good ole days when the mills were humming and the logging trucks filled with big trees, all the while knowing economics and automation make this impossible. At the same time, they use fear of wildfires as cover for industrial logging, sidestepping the reality that climate change and the historic drought gripping much of the West increases wildfire risks far more than cutting trees will ever address. The wildfires we see today matches what climate science tells us. If we truly want to see fewer large-scale wildfires, then we need to stop burning fossil fuels and do more to preserve intact, mature forests. Further, it is hubris to believe, and irresponsible to purport, that timber harvest will prevent wildfires. No one talks about hurricane-proofing the Gulf Coast, or tornado-proofing Oklahoma, but the Forest Service suggests if given enough latitude it can reduce forest fires – though the degree of which is left to the public’s imagination and that’s the point.
Ultimately, Secretary Perdue and the Trump administration believe national forests are little more than crops and the best, highest use for public lands is to exploit them with more logging, grazing, mining and drilling. The fact is, national forests and public lands are complex, living ecosystems with inherent value that deserves our moral consideration. These public lands are homes to grizzly bears, mountain goats, elk, trout, salmon and a whole host of other iconic wildlife species. Their survival depends on us, and we need to be better environmental citizens with our non-human neighbors.
America does need a “modernization blueprint” for the future of national forests, one that re-envisions their purpose so we can move beyond viewing forests simply as sources of lumber. In the 21st century, we need to strengthen forest protection, maximize the ability of national forests to serve as part of natural climate change solutions, and heal the scars left from decades of exploitation through true restoration, which cannot be done with a chainsaw.