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Conservationists Call for Bold New Course Fitting of America’s Conservation Legacy

March 4, 2009
WildEarth Guardians
In This Release
#DefendCarnivores, #EndTheWarOnWildlife
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Conservationists Call for Bold New Course Fitting of America’s Conservation Legacy

Celebrating 110th Anniversary of the Gila National Forest
Contact: WildEarth Guardians

SANTA FE, N.M. – On the 110th anniversary of the Gila National Forest, WildEarth Guardians proposes a new direction for the Greater Gila Bioregion. In a report released today, the group declares the need for a renewed commitment to the region’s unmatched natural heritage, as new threats and old ones endanger its remarkable biological diversity. The group asserts by adding the bioregion’s roadless lands to the Nation’s wilderness preservation system, its remaining wild areas can be preserved on par with Yellowstone.

Similarly, it calls on Congress to authorize a voluntary grazing permit retirement program to allow for the equitable resolution of longstanding conflicts between the needs of ranchers and the needs of wildlife. According to WildEarth Guardians, both ofthese policy shifts will help to ensure that the Greater Gila’s globally significant plant and animal populations -from wolves to trout-endure for its next 110 years, and help realize the land ethic, which Also Leopold so importantly defined.

“The Greater Gila is a spectacular place and conserving its wildlands and wildlife is a matter of national importance,” said John Horning Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians.

In addition to being an ecological gem, the Greater Gila Bioregion is the birthplace of America’s wilderness movement. Established in 1924, the Gila Wilderness was the first administratively designated wilderness in the country as a result of a campaign initiated by Aldo Leopold, then a forester on the Gila National Forest. Leopold is an icon of conservation in the United States whose experiences in the Great Gila Bioregion shaped his eloquent plea for a new land ethic to guide conservation. Named in his honor, the Aldo Leopold Wilderness lies within the boundaries of the Gila NationalForest and in combination with the adjacent Gila Wilderness, the two are considered the starting point for the modern, American wilderness-conservation movement.

“We are convinced that that a bold, equitable approach to conservation will bring both ecological and economic benefits to the region and we are committed to fulfilling Aldo Leopold’s vision for the wildlands of the Greater Gila Bioregion,” said Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.

In the report, entitled “The Greater Gila Bioregion: American’s First Wilderness,” WildEarth Guardians argues that daring and creative action is required. The region is rich in biological diversity and rich in public land – over 6.5 million acres in federalmanagement – and because of these two assets the bioregion is one of the increasingly rare landscapes in the American West where all the ecological parts can be restored and saved while meeting the challenge inherent in both Aldo Leopold’s land andwilderness ethics.

The modern-day conflict between livestock producers and wolves in the Greater Gila Bioregion could and should be equitably addressed. Retiring grazing permits where willing ranchers support the concept while at the same time expanding wildernessdesignations throughout the Greater Gila Bioregion can fulfill Leopold’s vision for the wildlands of the area. WildEarth Guardians intends to pioneer this practical and creative approach to wolf and wildland conservation.


One hundred and ten years ago the Gila River Forest Reserve was establishedon March 2 by the General Land Office.

The first wilderness area on any national forest in the nation was established onthe Gila National Forest.

The Gila Bioregion is one of the largest complexes of public lands in the West.

o Gila Bioregion total acreage: 10,009,100 acres

o BLM Lands: 816,060

o USFS Lands: 5,695,100

o Park Service Lands: 490

Today more than one million acres of the Gila Bioregion is protected aswilderness with another 2.2 million acres of land still eligible.

More than 500 species of vertebrates, of which 306 are birds and 45 of which areclassified sensitive, threatened, or endangered, inhabit the bioregion.

There are nearly one million acres of inventoried roadless lands on the NewMexico side that generate 559 jobs and $13 million in annual income to the fiveGila Bioregion counties.

85% of the bioregion’s public lands are grazed by domestic livestock, much ofwhich occurs year-round.

To date, the USFWS has killed or removed approximately 70 wolves in responseto complaints from public lands ranchers that graze cattle on U.S. Forest Servicelands in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.

View Report Here.