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The American West is a place set apart with abundant public lands and remnant ancient forests, pristine grasslands and wild headwaters streams, which remind us of the spectacular richness that once epitomized this region. WildEarth Guardians’ Wild Places Program protects public lands with a primary emphasis on National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. There are more than 300 million acres of public lands in the 17 western states and our goal is to prevent their capture and destruction by private, extractive interests. Sadly many of the diverse ecosystems in the West are in trouble. For example, the Southwestern ponderosa pine ecosystem, the Interior West’s Sagebrush Sea, and fragile streams and wetland habitats are all considered endangered ecosystems.
While advocating to end activities that threaten to destroy our public wildlands in the American West, we also work to ensure that they remain biologically intact and ecologically functional by actively restoring previously damaged lands, waters and ecosystems.
Threats: The Lords of Yesterday
Our wild places continue to face serious threats from development of oil and gas, logging, domestic livestock grazing, and off-highway vehicle use among other activities and misguided policies. Logging, livestock grazing, oil and gas extraction, and other human activities have damaged and fragmented our landscapes. Roads and all-terrain vehicles have cut through formerly remote areas, bringing noise, litter and ecological wreckage with them.
Our Vision: Vast, Protected, Connected Wild Places in the West
Our vision is clear and bold: vast, protected, wild landscapes interconnected by corridors that are free from the unmitigated impacts of human activity and teeming with the diversity of life.
We employ an array of strategies to implement our vision, including public education, legislative reform, restoration, federal and state litigation and economic incentives. Collaborative solutions, engaging traditional western land users are constructive in some places, while legal action may be required in other places or at other moments. We also engage substantively in federal and state administrative processes to ensure wild places are given adequate protections.
Protecting the Last, Best Wild Places
Using an effective combination of conservation science, grassroots mobilization, and strategic litigation, WildEarth Guardians’ Wild Places Program prioritizes protection of some of our last, best places in the American West with unparalleled biological diversity and wildness. Our four focal regions of interest include: the Greater Gila Bioregion—home to America’s first wilderness— where we seek to expand wilderness and safeguard the Mexican gray wolf; the Interior West’s Sagebrush Sea, where we envision a system of protective reserves; the Southern Rockies, where we are working to conserve wild cores and corridors to ensure a healthy landscape for large carnivore recovery and; the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert, where we are working to protect the borderlands.
Public Lands Policy Reform
WildEarth Guardians is working to reform public lands policy by supporting national initiatives that re-prioritize federal expenditures and management. Instead of investing in extractive private industries, we pressure government agencies to support preservation of biodiversity and our natural heritage. We continue to focus the majority of our efforts on the major stressors to the ecological integrity of our public lands: logging, livestock grazing, off-road vehicles and oil and gas development. We challenge these unsustainable practices at the site-specific or project level, at the programmatic level, in Congress, and to the administration.
Healing Public Lands
WildEarth Guardians balances our efforts to reform public lands policy by sponsoring and participating in on-the-ground forest and watershed restoration projects. These projects heal landscapes damaged by unsustainable resource extraction, while providing new economic opportunities to forest-based communities.
Top Wild Places Campaigns
View Clean Waters, Wild Forests to learn more about our work to protect forests and headwater streams.
View Climate Laboratory: The Jemez Mountains to learn more about this living laboratory for climate change resilience and adaptation.
View Ecosystems Restoration to learn more about our campaign to restore degraded forests and streams.
View Public Lands Advocacy to learn more about our efforts to curtail destructive activities on public lands.
View Saving the Sagebrush Sea to learn more about our campaign to protect this vital landscape.
View The Greater Gila: America's First Wilderness to learn more about our efforts to protect this wild region.