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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Our wild places face serious threats from a host of resource extraction and outdated land management policies, including oil and gas development, logging, domestic livestock grazing, an oversized, undermaintained road system, and off-road vehicle abuse. For example, roads and all-terrain vehicles cut through formerly remote areas, fragmenting habitat, spreading weeds and bringing noise, garbage and ecological damage with them. Roads also fail in severe storms, dumping tons of sediment into our nation’s rivers and streams – degrading habitat for fish and damaging municipal water supplies. Similarly grazing spreads weeds, reduces available food for native wildlife and severely damages water quality. Our wild lands -- forests, grasslands, and deserts -- play a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change. By protecting the best wild places, and restoring degraded lands, we can ensure they will continue to play an important role for fish, wildlife and humans as the climate changes.
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 impacts of human activity and teeming with the diversity of life.
We employ an array of strategies to implement our vision, including public education, legislation, restoration, litigation, policy reform and economic incentives. We bring people together to seek positive solutions where possible and we take legal action when necessary.
Our Wild Places Program conducts hands-on restoration projects with local communities to close roads, restore streams and repair damaged ecosystems. Where myopic desires to control nature have suppressed natural processes such as wildland fire, we fight in the courts and on the ground to have these processes safely restored. Where federal agencies propose spreading poisons across vast swaths of the wild in attempts to control invasive plants, we demonstrate how mechanical removal is a safer and more effective restoration strategy. Working with grazing permittees and policymakers, we advocate for voluntary retirement of federal grazing permits to promote biodiversity and wilderness on public land. And working with multiple partners, we advocate for the Forest Service to rewild its lands by significantly reducing its oversized, underfunded and undermaintained road system.
In summer 2013 WildEarth Guardians significantly expanded our program focus on roads and off-road vehicles through a strategic merger with Wildlands CPR. Wildlands CPR’s well-respected and talented staff and their highly-successful programs have been integrated into the Wild Places Program. We’ve brought their databases and resources into our organization. To find some of the resources formerly on the Wildlands CPR website, click here. WildEarth Guardians is fully committed to continuing Wildlands CPR’s mission and their exceptional work to address roads and off-road vehicles.
Protecting the Last, Best Wild Places
Using an effective combination of conservation science, ecological restoration, grassroots mobilization, and strategic litigation, WildEarth Guardians’ Wild Places Program protects the unparalleled biological diversity
and wildness in the last, best places of the American West. We’re working across the spine of the continent and beyond, focusing on the Greater Gila Bioregion of the Southwest; the Interior West’s Sagebrush Sea ; the Northern Rockies’ High Divide; and also the Pacific Northwest’s Coast Range. Within these focal areas, we are working to conserve the wild cores and corridors that large carnivores and migratory fish need to thrive.
In addition to these geographic priority areas, we also work to protect and expand roadless lands in national forests by protecting healthy headwaters, and by restoring the biodiversity, interconnectivity and majesty of our public wild lands.
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.
WildEarth Guardians works with the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program in New Mexico to restore forests fragmented and waterways polluted by a needless network of roads, which is the legacy of unsustainable logging. In collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and local contractors, we’ve closed roads and created safer forests where rural communities interface with wildlands.
Our work to re-wild these forests will expand already existing wilderness and roadless areas to create an interconnected system of wild places throughout the southern Rocky Mountains.
Top Wild Places Campaigns
- Bridging the Continental Divide - our campaign program to protect and connect our wild backcountry
- Clean Water, Wild Forests - our work to protect forests and headwater streams
- Climate Laboratory: The Jemez Mountains – a living laboratory for climate change resilience and adaptation
- Ecosystem Restoration - our campaign to restore degraded forests and streams
- Legacy Roads and Trails - our campaign to reclaim unneeded forest roads.
- Off Road Vehicle Reform – our campaign to reduce the destruction caused by Off Road Vehicles on wildlands
- Public Lands Advocacy - our efforts to curtail destructive activities on public lands
- Rewilding – our campaign to reduce the expansion and damage of roads on public lands
- Saving the Sagebrush Sea - our campaign to protect this vital landscape
- The Greater Gila: America's First Wilderness - our efforts to protect this wild region
- Wilderness Proposal for Forests in Utah - our work to protect forests in Utah