Founded as Forest Guardians in 1989, the original mission of the grassroots effort was to fight a logging project on northern New Mexico’s Elk Mountain. As the evidence of environmental threats continued, the efforts of the Guardians expanded.
In addition to fighting logging projects, the organization began to take on public lands livestock grazing industry. Seeing the devastation that cattle wreak on the southwest’s precious waterways, the organization launched a campaign to out-compete public lands ranchers for leases. Once we obtained the leases, we fenced out the cattle, removed non-native invasive vegetation, and planted native cottonwood and willow trees that allow waterways to thrive and wildlife habitat to be reborn.
In 1996, when a decade-long drought began in New Mexico and more than 10,000 Rio Grande silvery minnows died because the Rio Grande went completely dry for 60 miles, the organization took on river issues and began a campaign to advocate for water policy reform.
Though focused on endangered species issues from the beginning because of the inextricable link between the endangered Mexican spotted owl and its threatened forest home, the Guardians launched an official endangered species program in 2001 to address the growing biodiversity crisis.
In 2007, the Guardians formed a Climate and Energy program because the American West had become ground zero for new fossil fuel extraction and oil, and gas development on public lands significantly threatens wildlife and wild places.
In 2008, Forest Guardians merged with a carnivore protection non-profit, Sinapu, from Boulder, CO and became WildEarth Guardians.
In 2013, WildEarth Guardians merged with Wildlands CPR, a Missoula, MT-based non-profit with a 20-year history of protecting and restoring healthy watersheds from the threats of roads and motorized recreation. The 2013 merger provided a significant boost to WildEarth Guardians’ mounting efforts to protect wildlife and wild places, and to confront fossil fuel development in Montana and the Northern Rockies while linking that work to other conservation campaigns throughout the American West. In the same year we also merged with Utah Environmental Coalition (UEC), a 15-year old Utah-based non-profit with a strong track record of being a voice for Utah's forests and wildlife.
Though we have significantly expanded our scope over the years, our core mission to confront the threats facing the beauty and diversity of the American West has not changed. We’ve added an in-house legal team that works closely with our program directors to reform policy and uphold environmental laws. In addition, our program directors use public awareness campaigns and political pressure to protect wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers.