No more get-out-of-jail-free cards for killers of protected wildlife
In response to a Guardians lawsuit, a federal judge recently threw out the Department of Justice’s misguided “McKittrick Policy,” holding “Congress placed the burden to know the identity of the wildlife species being killed on the killer.” The policy had crippled prosecutions of those who kill animals protected by the Endangered Species Act—including Mexican wolves, whooping cranes and grizzly bears—by requiring that the government prove killers knew what species they were killing. The decision means killers of imperiled animals, like Echo the Grand Canyon wolf—who was shot by a coyote hunter—can again be punished for their crimes.
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Zinke recommends shrinking Bears Ears
On June 10, Interior Secretary Zinke issued an interim recommendation to President Trump to significantly reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument. Despite overwhelming opposition to revoking or shrinking Bears Ears, both nationally and from Utahns—including Guardians’ petition signed by almost 10,000 e-activists—Zinke claims the Bears Ears National Monument was illegally designated. His interim recommendation lacked specifics, but it’s clear that industry profits will take clear priority over natural and cultural resource protection under the Trump administration. Zinke’s final recommendations for Bears Ears will be issued on July 10, upon the completion of his review directed by Trump’s Executive Order.
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Guardians fights illegal Montana coal mine expansion
We recently challenged the Trump administration over increased mining of publicly owned coal at the Spring Creek mine in Montana. The expansion would allow Cloud Peak Energy—the third-largest coal company in the U.S.—to strip nearly 100 million tons of publicly owned coal from 1,000 acres of public lands. The suit, filed in collaboration with the Western Environmental Law Center and the Montana Environmental Information Center, argues that the federal government failed to disclose the climate implications of the mine’s expansion and failed to protect Montana’s public lands, air, and water. It also takes aim at the fact that the sale of the coal to Cloud Peak Energy was invalid: According to Interior Department records, an unauthorized federal official approved the sale. Last year, the mine was responsible for approximately 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution and was Montana’s largest contributor to global warming.
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Guardians stands ready to restore protections for Yellowstone’s grizzlies
In June, the Trump administration announced it will soon move forward with stripping grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of vital Endangered Species Act protections. We are ready to fight this premature, foolish plan once it is official. While Yellowstone’s bears have rebounded from near extirpation, they still face serious threats including dwindling food sources caused by a changing climate, poaching, habitat destruction, and a lack of connectivity between isolated populations. The government’s flawed decision will undermine grizzly recovery in the contiguous U.S. and hand over the bears’ fate to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, each of which are eagerly planning grizzly trophy hunting seasons. We will do all we are able to keep grizzlies on the path to recovery in the wild and off trophy hunters’ walls and floors.
Guardians challenges sale of Nevada public lands for fracking
In late May, we challenged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plans to auction off 195,653 acres of public lands in Nevada for fracking. The lands in question are located in Nye, Eureka, and Lander counties, and include swaths in the Big Smoky Valley and near the Ruby Mountains. If sold to the oil and gas industry, possibly for as little as $2 an acre, companies would have a right to drill and frack on the lands. Adding insult to injury, Nevada has little oil and gas development potential. Only 640 of the 200,000 acres slated for auction are located near a producing oil well, yet even if the companies chose not to develop the lands for oil and gas, they would still effectively own them for 10 or more years.
Guardians urges Gila National Forest to create grazing permit retirement mechanism
WildEarth Guardians, along with more than 10 partner organizations, is encouraging the Gila National Forest to adopt a forward-looking revised forest plan that will manage for the growing stress climate change puts on the Forest and its inhabitants. We recently submitted “scoping” comments that addressed the aging and poorly maintained road system; how the Forest can better manage for the recovering Mexican gray wolf population; and the need for the Forest to create a mechanism to retire grazing allotments where resource conflicts make commercial livestock grazing infeasible.
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New report offers hope for Greater Chaco protection
A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs provides some much-needed hope for safeguarding northwest New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region from fracking. The agencies are developing a new plan that will address issues including climate change, environmental justice, recreation and night sky impacts, and cultural values of the Greater Chaco region, which is home to Navajo and Pueblo tribal lands. The agencies received more than 15,000 comments opposing more fracking in the area, which has been subjected to hundreds of new wells over the last five years. The planning process for the region is expected to be completed by 2020.
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Forest Service to decommission unneeded roads in Washington
Guardians and allies successfully pushed for reduction of the forest road network in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest’s Greenwater watershed. In response to our objection, the Forest Service vowed to modify its decision for the Greenwater Access and Travel Management Project, resulting in the prevention of 16 miles of unauthorized roads from being added to the watershed’s road system. The Forest Service also agreed to maintain a recreational access road to the Noble Knob trail for cars; to consider road to trail conversions in the future; to close 68 miles of road; and to decommission 18 miles of road. Unneeded, deteriorating roads can cause harm to salmon and trout populations and pollute clean water. In Washington alone, the Forest Service is responsible for a forest road system three times larger than the state’s highway system.
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Suit seeks to halt wildlife killing in Idaho
Guardians and allies filed suit to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife-killing agency, Wildlife Services, from shooting, trapping, and poisoning Idaho’s wild animals. The suit challenges Wildlife Services’ failure to adequately evaluate the impacts of its slaughter of native carnivores including coyotes and mountain lions, and seeks a court order to complete a more comprehensive “environmental impact statement,” and to cease its wildlife killing until the completion of a proper environmental analysis. Wildlife Services purports to target native wildlife in an attempt to improve sage grouse populations, despite its own analysis finding that predator-killing programs will not boost prey species populations. Additionally, many of the methods the program uses to kill native carnivores pose risks to non-target animals, recreational users of public lands, and our companion animals.
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Groups unite for transparency under Trump
Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center stepped up our efforts to compel the Trump administration to publicly release government records concerning the killing of western wildlife and the oversight of fossil fuel companies. In a series of legal actions, we moved to require several agencies to release records we’re seeking under the Freedom of Information Act, including records on federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services and fossil fuel extraction on our public lands. The actions target the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. They aim to restore transparency and accountability to an administration that has regularly stonewalled public requests for information and refused to produce records by legally required deadlines.
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Petition to end use of deadly cyanide devices in Wyoming
Guardians and our allies formally petitioned Wildlife Services to immediately ban the use of M-44 sodium cyanide devices in Wyoming. M-44 “cyanide bombs” kill thousands of animals every year, many of which are not the bombs’ intended targets. In the course of a month earlier this year, the bombs were responsible for the deaths of a wolf in Oregon, two family dogs in Wyoming, and a bomb sent an Idaho teenager to a hospital and killed his dog when the boy accidentally triggered it while recreating on public lands near his home. Wildlife Services recently agreed to remove all M-44s in Idaho after a similar petition. The petition is a key step toward replacing the use of deadly poisons on our public lands with effective, nonlethal alternatives to help reduce conflicts with livestock.
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Opinion piece addresses Trump’s siege on national monuments
An opinion piece by Wild Rivers Program Director Jen Pelz appeared in the San Bernardino County Sun on June 2. The piece addresses President Trump’s siege on our national monuments and illustrates his questionable motives using the example of the Mojave Trails National Monument in California. This monument, described in the Presidential Proclamation that created it as being home to “rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes,” also contains a large reservoir of underground water. Cadiz Inc. first proposed mining the water in 1998, but the project was shelved after comprehensive reviews determined it would harm the fragile desert ecosystem—that is, until Trump came along. The national monument designation is all that keeps the Mojave Trails monument and others from destruction at the hands of Trump’s friends in the oil and gas industries. Writes Pelz, “The ultimate threat is to our rivers, our climate, our cultures and our future.”
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photo credits: (Left column) Mexican wolves—Steve Geer, istock. Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods—BLM, Flickr. coal train—WildEarth Guardians. grizzly and cubs—Sam Parks Photography. Big Smoky Valley—WildEarth Guardians. Gila NF sign—Zereshk, Wikimedia Commons. Chaco in spring—WildEarth Guardians. road in Mt. Baker—WildEarth Guardians. coyote pups—Erich Brock. Capitol dome—Samuel Bowman, Flickr. bobcat—Adobestock. Mojave Trails National Monument—Bob Wick, BLM. (Right column) Annie
Lundberg. Sarah McMillan—WildEarth Guardians. Annie bbqing—WildEarth Guardians.
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Meet Our Summer Interns
Annie Brethour is one of our summer legal interns and is a
rising second-year law student at the University of New Mexico. Before law
school, she earned an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from Florida Tech
and had the enviable position of working in marine mammal rehabilitation with
seals, sea lions, and sea otters in California. A native of California’s Bay
Area, as well as Northern Alabama, Brethour is an avid traveler and has visited
Antarctica (where she is pictured) and Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic. She is
excited to move to climate and energy work with Guardians.
Robert Lundberg is a summer legal intern for our Wild Rivers
program, where he’s working to protect and restore instream flows on the Rio
Grande and advance government transparency related to the environment. He’s
pursuing both a JD and an MS in Law and Environmental Studies from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a graduate associate of UW's Center
for Culture, History, and Environment, as well as the Holtz Center for Science
and Technology Studies. As if all that weren’t enough, Rob is also a
photographer, currently focused on the interaction of "wild" spaces
and human-built water infrastructure.
Put these dates on your calendar!
October 6—Santa Fe Guardians Gala
December 7—Albuquerque Treehugger Bash
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Conservation Director Announced, Legal Director Needed
With our public lands, wildlife, and global climate in the
balance, we've hired Sarah McMillan (our longtime Legal Director) as our
inaugural Conservation Director. At this critical juncture for the organization
as well as for the nation, Sarah’s intellect, legal acumen, innovative
spirit, deep connection to the West, and defiant humor will enable her and the
organization to succeed. But before Sarah can transition into this role, we
need to fill her current position as Legal Director. Please check out the
announcement and instructions to apply for the position.
Want to work for Guardians? We’re looking for a Southern
Rockies Wildlife Advocate, a Digital Content Coordinator, and a Legal Director.
You can find the job descriptions and directions for applying on our website.
So, How'd it go...
The Santa Fe Member Meeting BBQ offered up a welcome vegan
smorgasbord on a steamy spring night. Field Roast Grain Meat supplied vegan hot
dogs and hamburgers for a crowd of hungry folks, who also had the chance to
catch up with like-minded locals, receive a Guardians update, and indulge in a
massive vegan chocolate cake.