Group Expands to Westwide Scope, Retains Fierce Approach
Santa Fe, NM - Sinapu and Forest Guardians, two regional conservation groups have joined forces to create a stronger organization to protect and restore the wild places, wildlife and wild rivers in the American West. The new organization, WildEarth Guardians, creates a conservation force that will pressure policy-makers and government agencies to better protect and restore the lands, wildlife and waters from the Great Plains and Desert Southwest across the Rockies and through the Intermountain West.
For nearly two decades Sinapu, based in Boulder, Colorado, has worked to defend and restore large carnivores across the Southern Rockies while Forest Guardians has worked to protect and restore national forests, endangered species and rivers in the Greater Southwest. Integrating and expanding upon the two groups specialties, WildEarth Guardians has four core programs: Wildlife, Wild Rivers, Wild Places and Climate & Energy.
“We’ve created a bigger, bolder and better organization to achieve our goals to restore wolves across the West, protect iconic western rivers such as the Rio Grande and keep wild places like the Sagebrush Sea intact,” said John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians. ”With the merger and other staff additions we’ve assembled a powerful team of incredibly talented, passionate and hard-working advocates for wild nature,” Horning added.
Both organizations collaborated closely over the last two years, and agreed to merge a year ago. WildEarth Guardians will continue to do much of the same work, but has also amplified its strategic focus in several critical respects.
”The work of restoring and protecting wild carnivores will be enhanced considerably as a result of this merger,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, formerly of Sinapu, and now the Carnivore Protection Director for WildEarth Guardians. ”We will have more resources to defend habitats and key corridors for large carnivores,” she added.
Among WildEarth Guardians priorities are: restoring wolves to the American West, including protecting Mexican wolves in the Gila bioregion, and reintroducing wolves to the Southern Rockies; protecting the Rio Grande from its headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico; restoring keystone species such as prairie dogs across the American West; restoring wildfire as a natural and restorative process in healthy western forest ecosystems; abolishing the USDA’s Wildlife Services wildlife-killing program; and inspiring residents of the Wests urban and rural communities to become a cohesive and powerful voice for the protection of wild nature.
Two other new developments at WildEarth Guardians that parallel the merger announcement and name change include the creation of a new Climate & Energy program, and the formal integration of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign into WildEarth Guardians.
The Sagebrush Sea Campaign, which had been a sponsored project of Forest Guardians until recently, focuses on protecting and restoring the vast sagebrush-steppe landscape in the Interior West. To protect native wildlife and ecosystems of the Sagebrush Sea, the Campaign Director, Mark Salvo, will lead WildEarth Guardians efforts to obtain Endangered Species Act protection for the Greater sage-grouse, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and Gunnison sage-grouse. These three iconic grouse species have dwindled precipitously in the recent past because of habitat destruction due to livestock grazing, energy exploitation, and urban development.
“The Climate & Energy program will fight fossil fuel extraction including coal and oil and gas while promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. Unless we do more to bring about a shift away from dirty energy and towards clean, renewable energy and efficiency, the climate crisis is going to have a devastating effect on the wild places, wildlife and wild rivers of the American West,” said Robert Ukeiley, the Climate & Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.
WildEarth Guardians also has its own legal department. The organization has hired four staff attorneys over the last year to provide the legal muscle necessary to enforce environmental law and ensure that government agencies are protecting wildlands, imperiled species, biodiversity and clean air and water. In the past, the organizations have relied exclusively on outside law firms.
”The law is one of our most powerful tools to protect our public lands and endangered species,” said Jay Tutchton, WildEarth Guardians general counsel, who has successfully brought about the protection of more than 100 endangered species. ”By having experienced litigators on our team, we can move quickly and make sure that endangered species have a fighting chance.”
WildEarth Guardians has 18 staff members15 full-time and 3 part-timeand a budget of nearly $1.5 million in 2008. The group has offices in Denver, Boulder, Santa Fe and Phoenix as well as more than 10,000 members and e-activists from all across the country, the majority of whom live in the Four Corners states.
While the merger, name change and staff additions are each new and different, much will remain the same about the organizations work according to Horning. ”A WildEarth Guardian is a staunch guardian for wild nature, with legal and ethical duties in the same way that guardians are appointed by the courts to represent the interests of children. That core value has always been with us, and it will always be at the heart of our work,” continued Horning.
”Our mission is to protect the wild and we will use the law and mobilize the public to make sure wild nature in the West is defended and restored,” said Horning. “This is an exciting time to be a Guardian, both new and old.”