The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the Trump administration and state of Wyoming’s appeal of a 2018 decision restoring endangered species protections for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears. The original decision halted states’ planned trophy hunts in the ecosystem, which would have harmed other imperiled populations of grizzly bears. WildEarth Guardians, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, one of the plaintiffs and victors of the original lawsuit, played a central role in the appeal process.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana totals about 728 animals, up from its historic low of 136 when endangered species protections were enacted in 1975. In the original case, opponents of federal protections for grizzly bears argued that protections were no longer necessary and that a sport hunting season to effectively manage down the population was justified despite the fact that the population represents only a fraction of its historical abundance, and has yet to achieve connectivity to neighboring populations near Glacier National Park and elsewhere. The recovery of other grizzly bear populations depends heavily on inter-population connectivity and genetic exchange. Absent endangered species protections, dispersing grizzlies essential to species recovery would have to pass through a killing zone outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks where Wyoming and Idaho rushed to approve trophy hunts.
“WildEarth Guardians applauds the decision of the 9th Circuit Court—a triumph of science over politics—in ensuring that Yellowstone grizzly bears are allowed to truly recover and thrive,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director for WildEarth Guardians. “Grizzly bears are an iconic species whose very existence is intertwined with the concept of endangered species protection in the United States. This decision solidifies the belief of numerous wildlife advocates and native tribes that protecting grizzly bears should be based upon science and the law and not the whims of special interest groups, such as those who want to trophy hunt these great bears.”
Read the press release.
On June 29, WildEarth Guardians joined over 200 wildlife, conservation, and environmental justice groups in supporting several provisions of The Moving Forward Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1, 2020. The $1.5 trillion infrastructure package includes a number of provisions identified in the groups’ recent $25 billion Restoring Work, Restoring Wild request to Congress. That request urged Congress to use the opportunity of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to “revive the United States economy by investing $25 billion in new and existing conservation programs that will create hundreds of thousands of direct jobs and provide benefits to people, communities and the environment.”
Specific components of the Restoring Work, Restoring Wild request that are incorporated into The Moving Forward Act include:
- $300 million from the National Highway Performance Program for wildlife crossing project such as the construction of overpasses and underpasses for wildlife to safely cross highways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
- The bipartisan Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, which provides critical funding for states, tribes, landowners and federal agencies to identify and protect wildlife corridors.
- A $3 billion grant program for coastal and Great Lakes resilience and restoration, as well as a separate grant program to build living shorelines to support flood resilience.
- $50 million per year for the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program, which has a proven history of success and has created many thousands of jobs while restoring fish and wildlife habitat.
- principles of environmental justice and generally maintains the integrity of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.
The Moving Forward Act is a forward-looking effort to revive the economy and create good jobs while also addressing climate change, improving drinking water and air quality, and protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Instead of returning to “normal,” Congress has an opportunity—indeed a duty—to step up to safeguard the environment, workers and the public, and create more resilient ecosystems, public health benefits, and quality of life improvements in communities throughout the United States. The Moving Forward Act is a good first step.
Read the press release.
As a little kid, I remember flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines and staring entranced at beautiful pictures of wildlife. I was always a kid that enjoyed spending time outdoors, and my fascination with the natural world was reflected in the movies and books I consumed. An avid reader, I plowed through many introductory materials on wildlife, ecosystems, and climate. My favorite movies to watch were National Geographic Kids films on wildlife behavior. Through these materials I became increasingly aware of the looming threats of both climate change and mass extinction of wildlife throughout the globe. As a kid, I actively worried about endangered species and became determined to “save the earth” and the animals along with it.
In fact, I was so concerned about the fate of wild animals that for several birthdays in a row I demanded that my present be an “adoption” of an endangered species. Several organizations at the time welcomed donations to “adopt” an endangered species and in return would send you pictures of an individual animal you had helped to protect. As a young environmentalist, I became the proud protector of a dolphin, wolverine, and seal. At the time, I believed that my adoption would ensure those individual animals lived a long and happy life in the wild, untouched by humans.
I now understand that wildlife conservation is not quite as I had imagined as a little kid. You can’t just “adopt” a wild animal and ensure its protection; I was actually asking my parents to fund broader conservation efforts. In fact, I now understand that wildlife conservation is part of a much larger tapestry of environmental protections that work to combat the climate crisis while simultaneously supporting ecosystem health. This tapestry, in addition to protecting wild spaces from further degradation, also ensures the wellbeing of human communities.
WildEarth Guardians’ Wild Places and Wildlife programs demonstrate the interconnected nature of conservation policies which is why I am so excited to contribute to both programs as an intern this summer. For example, the protection of the Greater Gila Bioregion is a multi-pronged effort. Ensuring the health of that ecosystem requires not only working towards the permanent retirement of grazing permits but also working to protect the Mexican gray wolf. Altering the species composition of an ecosystem is a dangerous game to play, and WildEarth Guardians works to restore ecosystem equilibrium through their advocacy in the region. A healthier Greater Gila bioregion also promises a more resilient landscape. Healthy and resilient ecosystems are key contributors to the overall health of our planet, as well as help to maintain clean air and water in the region.
Likewise, wildlife protection efforts at WildEarth Guardians, such as working with the TrapFree New Mexico coalition, contribute to the overall health of local ecosystems and communities. Wildlife policies that rely on cruel killing techniques like traps and poisons are not ecologically sound and actively ignore the interconnected nature of biological ecosystems. But working to ban cruel wildlife traps in New Mexico not only protects wildlife, it also protects people and domestic animals in the neighboring area. Creating outdoor spaces that are safe to recreate in is equally important. In places as beautiful as the southwest, public lands should be places where locals and tourists can safely and responsibly explore the natural world.
This summer, I hope to meaningfully contribute to both the Wild Places and Wildlife programs at WildEarth Guardians. Since flipping through those National Geographic magazines as a kid my conceptualization of the natural world has changed greatly. As an Environmental Studies major, I now have a better understanding of the complexities of conservation – I know that as an individual I cannot save each and every beautiful animal that roams our wild lands. However, by contributing to WildEarth Guardians’ work in wildlife and public lands, I hope to honor the desire of my younger self to “save the earth” and work towards a future where humans and the natural world can coexist for the benefit of all.
The small crew of women met in the parking lot of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge at 9:00 AM sharp. They were armed with gloves, buckets, and trowels. Their mission: removing invasive plants from a newly established prairie dog colony.
The crew consisted of Lindsey Sterling-Krank and Jenny Bryant from the Prairie Dog Coalition; their volunteer Hannah Reeves; Pam Wanek, a prairie dog relocator; and Taylor Jones with WildEarth Guardians. The prairie dogs were recent transplants from a construction site in Parker, Colorado. The newly established colony was thriving; pups were up and about, and sentries chirped warning calls at the approach of humans. But the prairie dogs still needed a little help transforming their section of Rocky Flats back to healthy native prairie. And the crew was here to provide that help.
Dalmatian toadflax is very pretty, with yellow flowers resembling snapdragons. It was imported from Eurasia for its looks—then it went wild. It is one of the many nonnative plants crowding out natives in grasslands hammered by livestock grazing and other human uses.
The best way to get rid of Dalmation toadflax is simple hand-weeding. The crew waited until after a spring rain, and then quickly sprang into action to remove the weeds before they went to seed and spread. Removing this invasive plant makes room for native plants and flowers, restoring the grassland to its natural state.
Prairie dogs are a keystone species of the grassland—they trim vegetation, providing habitat patches for flowering plants and ground-nesting birds like mountain plovers. They turn the soil, increase water absorption, and redistribute nutrients. Their burrows are home to many other species including burrowing owls, snakes, salamanders, rabbits, and insects. And as a prey species, they provide sustenance to a wide variety of animals including black-footed ferrets, coyotes, badgers, swift foxes, bald and golden eagles, and ferruginous hawks.
But sadly, there are few places left where prairie dogs truly fulfill their keystone role. Human-caused threats stemming from crop agriculture, livestock grazing, energy development, residential and commercial development, prairie dog shooting, poisoning campaigns, and plague (an introduced disease) have caused the five species of prairie dogs to disappear from an estimated 87 to 99 percent of their historic range, depending on the species. With them went the black-footed ferret, now one of the most endangered animals in North America.
Restoring prairie dogs to their keystone role is a long-standing goal of both Prairie Dog Coalition and WildEarth Guardians, though the two groups work toward that goal in different ways. WildEarth Guardians has focused mainly on policy and law. The group tried for many years to get black-tailed prairie dogs listed under the Endangered Species Act. They also analyzed and graded state policies regarding prairie dogs for a decade. Prairie Dog Coalition’s main focus has been relocation of prairie dogs away from sites where they are in danger of being poisoned or bulldozed to protected sites like wildlife refuges or national grasslands. The two groups recently came together to create a guidance document for communities interested in implementing humane prairie dog management plans. Since most species of prairie dog are not protected under federal or state law, cities, towns, and municipalities can play an important role in prairie dog conservation and avoid unnecessary killing of prairie dogs by including prairie dogs in their planning processes. Good planning facilitates relocation projects like the one that saved the prairie dogs now thriving on Rocky Flats.
The project was a success—the crew removed a truckload of Dalmation toadflax. Weeding the vast expanse of prairie by hand may seem like a daunting task, but every bit of work is a step closer to a healthy, whole native grassland. With the prairie dogs keeping vigil behind them, the crew left at the end of the day with the satisfaction of knowing they’d made a tangible difference, even just for a small patch of prairie. Sometimes you have to be like a prairie dog; pick your small patch of ground, nurture and defend it, and know that together, you make up a great ecosystem of helping hands making it easier for nature to heal itself.
Speak up for Wolves: Sign the Petition!
The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. After lobos were nearly wiped out, reintroduction began in 1998 in remote areas of New Mexico and Arizona. Since then, recovery has been slow and turbulent. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided that the only wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. was not essential to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves as a species. Guardians and our allies sued, and in 2018, a U.S. district judge told USFWS to go back to the drawing board to write a new management rule for the lobo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently seeking comments on that new Mexican wolf management rule. This is our chance to make sure the agency gets recovery right, so please sign the petition!
Tweet for Lobos!
We’ve assembled nine ready-to-go tweets, complete with inspiring images and a link to the petition. All you have to do is “grab-n-go” to help raise awareness and make a big difference in the defense of the lobos! P.S. These work great on Facebook, too!
#Wolves keep the Gila wild! Celebrate the 96th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico by urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Gila’s most iconic resident—the critically endangered Mexican #wolf: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves #KeepItWild #StopExtinction
Lobos are essential! Mexican gray #wolves are critical ecosystem influencers in the desert Southwest. They keep prey populations healthy and in balance, protect riparian and aquatic resources, and indicate the health of entire ecosystems. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Humans are the largest obstacle to recovering Mexican #wolves. Along with illegal trapping, poaching and vehicular mortalities, politically motivated ‘recovery’ plans have put lobos in a precarious position. Take action to help get #wolf recovery right: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Real recovery for Mexican #wolves would include three distinct, but connected populations. Along with lobos‘ current range in the Greater Gila Bioregion, the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies are identified as prime habitat. Help make it happen: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Mexican #wolves in the wild are, on average, as related as brothers and sisters. Though lobos numbers are slowly increasing, the greatest indicator of a successful #wolf recovery effort is the genetic health of the wild population. Support real recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Recovery of wild Mexican gray #wolves is at a critical juncture as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft #wolf management rule for the Southwest. Help defend lobos! Submit your comment: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves Register for our webinar: https://guardiansaction.org/wolf-webinar
To truly recover Mexican gray #wolves a new management rule should be based on the best available science and prioritize enhancing the genetic diversity of the wild lobo population. Raise your voice to make sure Mexican #wolf recovery is done right: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Did you know that the Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is the most endangered gray #wolf in North America and one of the most endangered carnivores in the world? Tell the @USFWS we need a new management rule that will actually recover Mexican #wolves: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Almost a century after Aldo Leopold shot a Mexican #wolf in the Gila, only 163 of these wolves exist in the wild. The fierce green fire he saw in the wolf’s eyes still flickers in the #wolves who roam the Greater Gila today. Help support full recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves
Amplify YOUR Voice for Wolves: Write a Letter to the Editor
Letters to the editor (LTE) are a great way to share your perspective and encourage others to speak up for lobos. It’s easy, fast, and effective—all you have to do is write your short perspective on why wolves deserve more protections and why the southwest needs more wolves. Be sure to mention that U.S. Fish and Wildlife is taking public comments on wolf management right now and comments can be submitted here: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolf
You can submit your letter to your local outlet, or if you are not from the region, submit it to a statewide outlet. Here are direct links to submission forms, note that different papers have different word count limits.
- Albuquerque Journal
- Santa Fe New Mexican
- Las Cruces Sun-News
- Silver City Daily Press
- Silver City Sun-News
- El Defensor-Chieftain (Socorro, NM)
- Sierra County Sentinel (Sierra County, NM)
- Arizona Daily Star
- Arizona Republic (Tucson area)
- East Valley Tribune (Phoenix area)
- Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff area)
- White Mountain Independent (White Mountain area – closest to wolf country)
- Pinal Central (Casa Grande area)
- Daily Courier (Prescott area)
LTE Talking Points: Here are key elements of a new lobo management rule that will help truly recover and restore Mexican wolves to their historic range. Please use these talking points as a guideline for drafting your individual LTE, but what’s most important is that your voice and your reason for wanting lobo recovery come through. So, please speak in your own words, but make sure to emphasis the fact that a new Mexican wolf management rule must achieve the following:
Release more wolves into the wild
- Releasing adult wolf pairs with pups is the only way to help diversify the genetics of wild wolves.
Limit the removal of wild wolves
- Wolf removal, whether for crossing arbitrary political boundaries or being accused of livestock depredation when ranchers are reckless, is unacceptable.
Protect lobos from poaching
- Lobos’ greatest threat is human-caused mortality. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do better to protect wolves from illegal killings.
Reduce wolf-livestock conflict
- Wolves are native carnivores highly adapted to the desert southwest. They should not bear the burden of livestock-wildlife conflict when non-native cows are grazing on public lands without protection.
Wolves need to be designated as “essential” to the recovery of the species in the wild
WildEarth Guardians has submitted comments asking five individual national wildlife refuges along the Rio Grande in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas to reconsider their proposals to carry out the Trump administration’s directive to expand hunting and fishing on national wildlife refuge lands. Our letter to the five wildlife refuges highlights the lack of protections for imperiled species and the conflict the expansion will create with existing public uses on the refuges.
The five wildlife refuges along the Rio Grande provide key habitat for at least 25 species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the ocelot, Gulf Coast jaguarundi, northern Aplomado falcon, Walker’s manioc, Rio Grande silvery minnow, and Southwestern willow flycatcher. The proposed hunting and fishing expansion will directly impact these species through habitat destruction and disturbance to possible direct harm and harassment. For example, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley refuge expansion, the hunt plan opens a tract to hunting where ocelot have been documented.
“We have an extinction crisis in the American West,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Expanding hunting and fishing in some of the most important protected habitat for imperiled species is beyond irresponsible, it’s negligent, and we plan to hold the agency accountable.”
Read the press release.
Fifty years ago, a group of visionaries created an event to honor, celebrate and protect the earth. The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.
If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. Simply put, it’s time for action and we need Guardians like you to step up and help be a catalyst for the type of bold changes needed to address systemic problems, like the nature crisis and climate crises.
First, if you haven’t already, sign our Earth Day Pledge and make sure to share it with your friends and family.
Next, help us take over social media for Earth Week! To do that, we’ve assembled ready-to-go images for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’re short on time, we’ve even put together some sample Facebook posts and Instagram hashtags for you. We’ve created something extra special for people on Twitter: A compelling series of 15 tweets. We’d be especially grateful if you could send them all out!
Finally, you can find WildEarth Guardians on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @WildEarthGuardians, so make sure to tag us!
All Earth Day images can be downloaded from this folder. They’re already sized for Facebook/Instagram or Twitter. You can also click on each image below and get a full-size image for use on social media.
Start your very own Twitter Storm by sending out the following 15 tweets. We’ve made it simple: Just grab and post! Please note: If an image isn’t associated with the suggested tweet (Example: Suggested Tweet #1) an image will automatically propagate when you post the entire tweet.
Suggested Tweet #1
The original founders of #EarthDay were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #2
Sign the Earth Day Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard
Suggested Tweet #3
Thanks to the catalyzing effect of the original #EarthDay vision—as well as a deep and wide progressive social and political movement—a whole suite of environmental safety nets now exist to protect nature, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/americas-bedrock-environmental-laws-a-conversation-with-john-horning/
Suggested Tweet #4
This #EarthDay is a time to reject dualities that seek to deny our interdependence and embrace our shared destiny—planet and people have one health. From this stems our belief that the rights of nature and the rights of people are inextricably intertwined. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #5
Help spread the word about #EarthDay2020! Check out our Earth Day social media tool kit for a series of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images. Let’s be loud and be proud this #EarthDay! @wildearthguard https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayToolkit
Suggested Tweet #6
There has never been a better time to chart a new course towards a restorative and regenerative future. Take the #EarthDay Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard
Suggested Tweet #7
Extractive industries that mine, drill, log, and graze on #publiclands are fueling the climate crisis and the nature crisis. We must equitably retire extractive industries on public lands. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #8
Living rivers are vital to the diversity of life on earth. To ensure the future health of rivers and the species that depend on them, we must revive the pulse of great waterways and expose the historic injustice to rivers. Take the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #9
Native #wildlife, especially carnivores, are suffering under the multiple and intensifying threats of habitat destruction, climate disruption and questionable hunting and trapping practices. We must nurture an ethic of compassionate co-existence: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #10
Public lands in the American West are home to some of the last remnants of wild, yet still unprotected, landscapes in our nation. There are potentially up to 40 million acres of #publiclands that would be eligible for permanent protection. ACT: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #11
Times like these show the importance of safety nets. We must secure and strengthen environmental safety nets like the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act to meet the challenges ahead. Sign the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #12
WildEarth Guardians’ #EarthDay vision calls for leadership at all levels of society. We need leaders from all political spectrums to shoulder the responsibility of creating and embrace the vision of a new, more nurturant social contract with citizens. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #13
Living rivers and #cleanwater are vital to all life. Flowing, healthy rivers nourish communities, connect ecosystems, and provide corridors and habitat for fish and wildlife. Sign the pledge to protect and defend #livingrivers: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #14
We must deepen our commitment to greater equity and inclusion in our human communities to ensure that people are treated with compassion and afforded the dignity that all people deserve. #EarthDay https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #15
The beauty, resiliency, and dynamism of Earth can still inspire a sense of awe and wonder in each of us. If we re-commit, with a greater sense of urgency, to the founding vision of #EarthDay, we can ensure future generations will experience the beauty too. https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Suggested Facebook Posts
Suggested Facebook Post #1
The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.
As we commemorate this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we do so with a somber reckoning that we have not heeded planetary health warnings early or well enough. Therefore, these times require ever more bold actions to realign our commitment to Earth and its natural systems and our mutual well-being.
Here’s what guardians like you can do today to help us collectively achieve this vision.
Suggested Facebook Post #2
If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. It is a time for action. It is time to reweave the threads of the environmental, public health, and economic safety nets, which ensure that the public welfare and the common good are each protected.
Take the Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Suggested Facebook Post #3
Happy Earth Day…Now get to work for the Earth!
Our Earth Day social media tool kit is a one-stop-shop of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images.
Instagram Hashtags and Link for Bio
Put this link to the Earth Day Pledge in your bio: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Hashtags: Use one, or use them all!
#EarthDay #EarthDay2020 #EarthDayEveryDay #ClimateAction #StopExtinction #PublicLands #Wildlife #EndTheWarOnWildlife #LivingRivers #KeepItInTheGround #ProtectWhatYouLove #SaveTheEarth #SaveThePlanet #ProtectOurPlanet #ActOnClimate #EarthWeek #WaterIsLife #CleanWater #CleanAir #Biodiversity #Coexistence #ProtectNature #SaveNature #ProtectWildlife #OneEarth #Together #EndangeredSpecies
Grizzly bears continue to be in the crosshairs of those eager to remove them from the Endangered Species Act. Such action is premature and shortsighted. Grizzlies face continuing threats from climate change, dwindling key food resources, illegal poaching, lack of connectivity among populations, and the negative impacts from roads and railroad tracks fragmenting their habitat.
Without connected and secure habitat, grizzly bear recovery will fail. The science supporting these facts is clear and on display in this video featuring highlights from five leading experts who presented their findings during a November 2019 conference at the University of Montana.
WildEarth Guardians co-sponsored production of this video with the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force, Wilderness Watch, Save the Yellowstone Grizzly and the University of Montana Environmental Studies Program. A compendium of each scientist’s findings is available here. The full recording of the Task Force’s November conference is also available here.
WildEarth Guardians is working tirelessly to protect wolves—from the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies to the American Southwest. Though wolves are eminently popular they are nevertheless under seemingly relentless attacks by the Trump administration, the livestock industry, and members of Congress hostile to wolves. WildEarth Guardians’ wolf advocacy entails a varied and diverse approach necessary to ensure that wolves have the freedom to roam.
From working with ranchers to retire their public land grazing permits to supporting direct democracy to catalyze wolf recovery in Colorado to engaging in frontline litigation, our wolf advocacy is as diverse as the ecosystems upon which wolves depend. Guardians’ broader vision is to defend the intrinsic right of all native carnivores to exist while cultivating an ethic of coexistence with these incredible creatures.
In early April, our Executive Director John Horning and Conservation Director Sarah McMillan sat down virtually to have an engaging and informative discussion all about wolves. We hope you enjoy it and join us in answering the call of the wild to defend wolves across the American West.
The recent images of Koala bears scarred by the massive forest fires in Australia has evoked global empathy for Koalas. The events reminded me of a time and place when the American conscience was similarly moved.
Seventy years ago firefighters found a five-pound bear cub clinging to a tree, where he had escaped a blaze. His paws and legs were burned. They named him Smokey. The Forest Service has used him as an icon for protecting our national forests ever since. Unfortunately, Smokey has treated us far better than the Forest Service has treated our bears.
For eons nature’s bounty has nourished bears to meet their voracious appetites and feed their young before hibernating. But there’s a more sinister food source lying in wait for these majestic animals. Doughnuts, dog food, raw meats, and bread—all of it drenched in molasses or syrup—are used by hunters as bait to attract black bears and then kill the unsuspecting animals.
These bait traps, though targeting black bears, also attract grizzlies. In fact, a growing number of hunters are using remote cameras to capture photos of grizzlies, including one shared with the media in mid-January. And the record shows that dozens of grizzlies—many of them dispersing to claim new terrain—have been killed at bait traps on national forests in Idaho and Wyoming.
One of the core ethics of the hunting community is the concept of fair chase. Nothing about bear baits that entice hungry animals while a hunter sits in a lounge chair waiting for the helpless animal to arrive complies with the ethic.
While the states of Idaho and Wyoming authorize the practice of black bear baiting, including within the range of the grizzly, it is the U.S. Forest Service that has abdicated its responsibility to protect bears. Though the agency, at one point, applied stringent regulations to the practice of bear baiting nearly all of those have been rescinded over the years due to pressure from hunters and state game agencies.
What’s more paradoxical is that hikers and backpackers are under strict regulations to store their food and refuse, as well they should be, to prevent bear/human conflict.
Recognizing both the irresponsibility and hypocrisy of the Forest Service’s actions, WildEarth Guardians sued the Forest Service last year for endangering grizzly bears. That lawsuit now awaits a ruling on whether plaintiff groups have legal ‘standing’ to have our case heard.
But the truth is the practice of bear-baiting itself should be banned not only because it harms an endangered species but also because we can and should be better – not only better hunters (if that is what you choose) but better, fairer, people.
Three quarters of a century ago, the Forest Service launched its Smokey the Bear campaign and emblazoned the iconic animal on the public consciousness. Along with Winnie the Pooh and the Teddy Bear, bears are one of the most iconic animals in the world. The survival of these noble creatures is essential to the survival of the human psyche – they not only play a role in the balance of the environment, they play a role in the balance of the human mind.
At the heart of Smokey’s identity is vulnerability (the image of a three month old cub desperately clinging on for life). The Forest Service has used that image for decades to protect the forests, yet fails to protect our bears by allowing hunters to exploit the bears’ most basic vulnerability – the need for food. If more of the Americans public knew about the practice of baiting, there would be outrage.
Trust in American institutions is at an all-time low. To restore some measure of trust in the Forest Service, the agency should take basic steps to protect black and grizzly bears from the unethical and barbaric behavior of a few by banning the practice of bear baiting in our national forests. It’s the least we can do.
The bear is a fundamental part of our national story, and for many of us – our personal story as well. A human being is nothing, if not a collection of stories. When we protect these worthy animals, in a sense, we are really protecting ourselves.