WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

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Photo Credit: WildEarth Guardians

Ecosystem restoration – restoring Western wetlands and waters

Ecosystem Restoration

In the American West, rivers, creeks, and wetlands are the arteries of life for the majority of wildlife, despite representing less than two percent of the landscape. Their clean water and abundant vegetation provide necessary food, shelter, and migration corridors for a multitude of species, including grizzly bear, elk, deer, antelope, sage grouse, Southwestern willow flycatcher, meadow jumping mouse, and many, many others (not to mention the beaver, fish, amphibians, and reptiles that live there year-round).

Human activity has greatly impacted these critical ecosystems. Overgrazing, mining, logging, off-road vehicles, road construction, and agricultural practices have disrupted the natural processes necessary for these systems to flourish, depleting native vegetation, causing sedimentation, polluting the water, and causing the streams to become shallower, wider, and warmer.

Fighting for our Western wetlands and waters in court is only half the battle. For more than 20 years, WildEarth Guardians has been actively restoring these arteries of life, partnering with public land agencies, municipalities, private landowners, and other groups to eliminate or reduce impairments and restore the natural processes to allow these essential ecosystems to thrive. As part of our restoration projects, we have planted more than one million trees and innumerable native plants to stabilize streambanks, increase shade, and provide bird, fish and wildlife habitat for these vital landscapes in the American West.

Restoration: You Have to See It to Believe It!

Watch as the landscapes where we do our restoration work transform before your very eyes.


Where We Work

San Antonio Creek

Jaramillo Creek

Rito Penas Negras Creek

Rio de las Vacas Creek

Rio Grande

Santa Fe River

Galisteo Creek

Bluewater Creek

La Jencia Creek

Mimbres Creek

Rio Puerco

Rito de los Indios

Redondo Creek

Sulphur Creek

Santa Clara Creek

Stream Team

Each spring, WildEarth Guardians’ members, supporters, and volunteers help our restoration efforts by directly participating in our Stream Team events. They plant trees and other native vegetation, remove fencing, and engage in other activities to improve watershed health and wildlife habitat. Our Stream Team planting days, held throughout New Mexico, are a great way to get your hands dirty for the sake of the environment and reconnect to the wild rivers that sustain us all.

Each event is a breathtaking display of what can happen when we come together to heal once-degraded landscapes. At the beginning of the day, a barren landscape lies before us; a few hours later, the area is a forest of newly planted native trees—or a livestock pasture fence is removed or transformed into more wildlife-friendly fencing. These efforts aid in minimizing the impacts of human activities and allow natural processes to function as much as possible.

There is great satisfaction in seeing a bird land on a recently planted cottonwood, or in a beaver creating a dam and expanding wetland habitat using willow we planted. Connecting communities to these ecosystems, and their direct participation in restoration efforts, not only provides a sense of accomplishment, but also allows communities to take pride in ownership of the protection and restoration of nearby public lands.

How We Work

Riparian and wetland restoration

The majority of our restoration efforts take place within riparian or wetland ecosystems to improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and increase ecosystem resiliency as climate change further stresses watershed health. Many streams in the Southwest not only have less water than historically, but they also lack shade cover due to loss of riparian vegetation. This results in elevated stream temperatures, which is detrimental to the aquatic species that live in these streams and further reduces the amount of water in the streams due to evaporation.

A major component of our restoration efforts is planting native vegetation to shade streams, reduce stream temperatures, and provide habitat for wildlife—including beavers, which will utilize our planting material to build dams and increase wetland habitat and water capacity in these incredibly important ecosystems.

Removing fences and other restoration projects

WildEarth Guardians’ restoration focus is to provide the tools and conditions that enable our rivers, streams, wetlands, and riparian areas to function as naturally as possible, providing essential habitat to the species that depend on them.


Fences dominate our public landscape in the West to reduce the management requirements for cattle and sheep. A sad consequence of fencing is its negative impacts on native wildlife. Natural migration corridors are now littered with barriers and potential traps that have greatly reduced wildlife’s ability to roam freely. In partnership with land managers, we tear out old livestock fencing, allowing animals to travel unencumbered across their habitat. Additionally, if fencing must remain, we convert barbed wire fencing into more wildlife-friendly fencing (barbless) to allow wildlife to pass under or over fences and minimize harmful impacts.


More than 250,000 miles of roads are located on public lands in the Western states. Many of these roads are user-created or former logging roads that crisscross public lands, fragmenting wildlife habitat, accelerating erosion, and increasing sedimentation into our waterways, further degrading water quality. WildEarth Guardians partners with public land managers to eliminate unneeded roads by re-contouring them back into the natural topography. We also help improve needed roads to move them away from riparian areas, provide adequate fish passage, and make them more stable to reduce the sedimentation impacts to streams.

Recent Stories From Public Lands

Large Landscape Conservation Just Makes Cents

July 17, 2020

We envision a large landscape designation in the Greater Gila Bioregion that would set the stage for the ecological and economic benefits of land protections to be, for lack of a better word, capitalized on. 

Read more >

Beckoning the Beavers

October 30, 2019

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought beavers were worthy of my admiration. Sadly, beavers have been eradicated from literally tens of thousands of miles of streams and small rivers—the victims of both trapping and habitat degradation.

Read more >
gila landscape wildearth guardians
Postcard from the Gila
Jul 23, 2018
Cougar black white wild time WildEarth Guardians One Day Closer
Wild Time
Oct 16, 2017
overgrazing matt lavin flickr wildearth guardians

Why legislation authorizing permanent retirement of livestock grazing permits matters

July 23, 2018

Keeping livestock off public lands has many benefits, but existing law doesn’t allow for permanent livestock grazing permit retirement

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Public Lands Press

Of Toddlers, Wolves, and Public Lands Ranchers

Counter Punch | Jul 17, 2020

The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, further bolstered by the Multiple Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, authorized cattlemen and sheep growers to use public land across the West to grow their personal businesses. Now the same law has enabled corporate cattleman to profit from some of America’s most picturesque forests, grasslands, and deserts.

Read more >

All Public Lands Op-Eds

Our national forests are not crops
Missoulian | Jun 28, 2020
Forest Service is ignoring public comments
Santa Fe New Mexican | May 30, 2020

Board upholds order keeping coal mine out of roadless area

The Daily Sentinel | Jul 27, 2020

A state board this week upheld an order barring further road-building or other surface-disturbing activities by the West Elk Mine in the Sunset Roadless Area of the Gunnison National Forest in the upper North Fork Valley.

Read more >

All Public Lands In the News

Forest Service defends stance on mine road
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel | Jun 23, 2020
Coal mine built illegal road
The Daily Sentinel | Jun 16, 2020