Disputing increasing OHV use in Ochoco National Forest
Guardians and allies challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to add 137 miles of new off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails in central Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest. The added trails threaten the Ochoco’s old-growth ponderosa pine forests and fragile scabland ecosystems, as well as wildlife inhabiting the secluded Ochoco Mountains, including the region’s iconic Rocky Mountain elk herds; mule deer; redband trout; and gray wolves. The Forest Service greenlighted the project despite opposition from the public and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Ochoco National Forest already contains a 674-mile OHV trail network, and the new trail system project would increase the number of miles in the forest designated for OHV use by 20%.
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Battle begins to restore Yellowstone grizzly protections
On June 30, we notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that we will sue over its flawed decision to strip grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of their Endangered Species Act protections. The decision to remove federal safeguards for grizzly bears will undermine recovery of contiguous U.S. grizzlies and will place their fate in the hands of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, all of which plan to permit trophy hunting of the bears. Yellowstone grizzlies already face dwindling food sources, habitat loss, poaching, and the worsening impacts of climate change. Removing protections from the bears all but guarantees they will not naturally reconnect with other isolated populations. Grizzly bears in the United States have yet to return to nearly 97 percent of their historic range. Stay tuned; we’ll be suing in late August.
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Guardians demands transparency under Trump
Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center are stepping up our efforts to compel the Trump administration to publicly release government records related to Wildlife Services—the secretive federal wildlife killing program—and federal management of fossil fuel extraction on our public lands. The legal actions target the federal Bureau of Land Management, Office of Surface Mining, and Wildlife Services and seek to release records under the Freedom of Information Act. Since taking office, the Trump administration has stonewalled public records requests and refused to produce documents by legally required deadlines. We’re calling on the administration to stop hiding in darkness and provide the requested documents as required by law.
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Guardians urges “no” vote on bill targeting wolves, ESA
We’re speaking out against the recently introduced “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act” or “‘HELP’ Wildlife Act” (S 1514), a bill that includes sneaky provisions that would devastate decades of gray wolf recovery in the Great Lakes region. The bill would pave the way for “recreational” slaughtering of wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It would also prevent the EPA from limiting toxic lead in fishing gear, allowing lead poisoning to cascade through ecosystems and kill endangered California condors and other wildlife. The bill sacrifices the interests of many for the greed of a few, serving hunters who want to slaughter still-recovering wolves and anglers who want to use poisonous lead even though there are safer alternatives.
Feds called out for failing to lead on the Rio Grande
This month, Guardians scorned the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for failing to consider climate change and plan for a sustainable water future for the Rio Grande as the agency evaluated whether to store more water for the City of Albuquerque in Elephant Butte Reservoir. We submitted comments on a comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of the Albuquerque water utility’s plan to store 50,000 acre-feet of water. The agency’s draft plan fails to protect flows in the Rio Grande and ignores the needs of endangered species that inhabit the Rio. Watch for updates as we continue to defend our Great River’s right to its own water.
Lawsuit filed against federal wildlife-killing activities in California
Guardians and our allies sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program over its wildlife-killing plan for Northern California. The lawsuit demands an updated environmental analysis of the program’s killing of native wildlife, including coyotes, bobcats, and foxes. Wildlife Services is a taxpayer-funded federal program that uses cruel, ineffective, and scientifically unsound tools—including painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons, and aerial gunning—to “manage” wildlife populations. Last year, the program admitted to killing 1.6 million native animals nationwide, including 3,893 coyotes, 142 foxes, 83 black bears, 18 bobcats, and thousands of other animals in California. Nontarget animals, humans, and companion animals are also at risk from these indiscriminate methods.
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Indigenous youth lead 80-mile run to save Greater Chaco
In response to the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of more than 400 new fracking wells with inadequate Tribal consultation, the International Indigenous Youth Council and native youth in the Four Corners area organized an 80-mile run to highlight harms from fracking in the Greater Chaco. Ancestral and ceremonial sites in the Greater Chaco serve a purpose to surrounding Pueblos and Tribes, but despite the area being a World Heritage Site, most lands remain unprotected as fracking continues within their boundaries. New industrialized fracking development has degraded the landscape, fueling more air pollution, safety concerns, and truck traffic in the area. More than a dozen youth participated in the relay run, which began at the Chaco Canyon Visitors Center and ended at the Bureau of Land Management offices in Farmington.
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Time to release more Mexican gray wolves into wild
Guardians and our allies sent a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release more endangered Mexican gray wolves into the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico. With fewer than 113 remaining in the wild in the United States, lobos badly need fresh genes from the captive population. In fact, the wild wolves are now so closely related that, on average, they are as genetically similar to each other as if they were siblings—yet wolf families have been sequestered indefinitely in pens because release plans were shelved due to state political pressure. Appointees to the game commissions of Arizona and New Mexico, who often hail from livestock, hunting and outfitting industries, oppose releasing wolves; and the Fish and Wildlife Service folded under the pressure.
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Guardians pushes for stop on public lands oil and gas sales
Just before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, we filed a brief in federal court calling on a judge to block any more auctioning off of U.S. public lands for fracking—the first-ever federal court case to request a halt to the sale of public lands for oil and gas drilling. The brief is part of a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to auction off nearly 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming for fracking, and targets the Department’s failure to account for and limit the climate impacts of authorizing more fossil fuel production. Oil and gas produced from the public lands and waters managed by the Interior Department constitutes a whopping 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
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photo credits: (Left column) Disputing OHV—U.S. Forest Service. Grizzly walking—Sam Parks. Next exit: Freedom—Adobe Stock. Gray wolf—Ray Rafiti. Rio Grande—Adriel Heisey. Bobcat—Elroy Limmer. Youth running—Guardians Flickr. Mexican gray wolf—U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Stop on Public Lands—BLM Wyoming. (Right column) Bakhtawar Khan Bio—Bakhtawar Khan. Lowell Chandler Pic—Lowell Chandler. Heart hands—Leon Brocard. Woman kneeling—WildEarth Guardians.
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Bakhtawar Khan is a rising second-year law student at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and a Guardians summer legal intern. She is working with Greg Dyson on the Rewilding Campaign, primarily focusing on managing cross-country travel of off-road vehicles. She spent the first 17 years of her life in Karachi, Pakistan, where she experienced first-hand the effects of an energy crisis. This experience, along with her love for exploring the wilderness, fueled her passion to pursue environmental law and policy.
Lowell Chandler is a student at the University of Montana School of Law and a summer legal intern for Guardians’ Wildlife Program. His focus is environmental law. From working to protect grizzly bears to holding federal and state agencies accountable for persecuting wildlife, he is passionate about being a voice for the wild. Desert-born and Montana-grown, he’s an ardent defender of the Wild West. You can find him hollering in the streets and—soon—in the courtroom, in the name of protecting our environment. If he isn’t there, he’s likely in the woods or on the river.
Put these dates on your calendar!
Tickets are on sale for our 14th Annual Guardians Gala
happening on October 6 at the Santa Fe Farmers Market Pavilion. Join Guardians as we celebrate victories to protect native species across the West. Plan a trip to Santa Fe and purchase your tickets today.
Stay tuned for details on upcoming meet and greets in Portland, Tucson, Denver, Boulder, and Missoula.
So, How'd it go...
Thank you to all who signed our petition urging Interior Secretary Zinke to leave our national monuments alone. We appreciate your support of our quest to preserve these magnificent national treasures.
Forest roads are the leading source of sediment in our streams and rivers. Greater amounts of sediment degrade fish habitat and pollute drinking water supplies. We’re on a mission to help reverse this damage by returning unneeded forest roads to the wild. This month, we visited several forest roads on the Mount Hood National Forest that have been, or are in the process of, being restored to the wild.