Founded as Forest Guardians in 1989, the original mission of WildEarth Guardians' grassroots effort was to fight a logging project on northern New Mexico's Elk Mountain in the Santa Fe National Forest. As the evidence of environmental threats continued throughout the West, Guardians’ efforts and programs expanded as well.
Since then, we've grown to protect the entire American West—with 40 staff, living in eight states across the West. Guardians is proof that a group of committed, visionary, idealistic, and passionate caretakers of the wild can take on the most daunting adversaries—and win.
Colorado is a priority state for WildEarth Guardians in our fight to protect the Wild. Below are eight critical wins or significant actions Guardians has taken in the last 24 months in and near the state:
-This summer, Guardians and our allies prevented new oil and gas leasing across 2.2 million acres of southwestern Colorado’s North Fork Valley. Now the U.S. Bureau of Land Management must supplement its environmental analysis and release an amended plan that takes into account potential harms to the climate from fossil fuel extraction. It must also evaluate at least one alternative that reduces oil and gas leasing.
-In July, Guardians and our allies sued Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis’ administration over its failure to ensure the West Elk coal mine complies with state and federal clean-air laws. The mine, located in the North Fork Valley, is the largest in Colorado and is a massive source of smog-forming volatile organic compound emissions, as well as methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
-In February, thanks in part to a Guardians lawsuit, gray wolves in most of the United States, including in Colorado, regained Federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. The small population of gray wolves that have naturally re-established themselves in Colorado are now protected.
-Last year, 58,000 acres of public land near Dinosaur National Monument were protected from damage, loss of wildlife habitat, and increased air pollution. A federal judge agreed with Guardians' and our allies and overturned a U.S. Bureau of Land Management decision to sell the lands for fracking and drilling—which would have worsened the air quality and increased smog along the Front Range.
-Also in 2021, WildEarth Guardians and partners took legal action against the Forest Service and their revised Land Management Plan for the Rio Grande National Forest. We contest that the Forest Service is failing to adequately protect the endangered Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly and the federally threatened Canada lynx, and failing to adequately manage over-snow vehicle travel on the Forest.
-In April 2020, Colorado Parks and Wildlife made positive steps by banning wildlife killing contests targeting many of the state's treasured wildlife including coyotes, foxes, and prairie dogs. In these contests, participants competed for the highest body count or who drew the most blood and were then rewarded for their butchery. Colorado became the sixth state in the country to ban these cruel events and Guardians is working tirelessly to ban them throughout the West and eventually nationwide.
-In 2020 Guardians also successfully filed suit against the Trump administration's gutting Clean Water Act protections, which give polluters free rein to dump pesticides, mining waste, and other pollutants into unprotected rivers, streams, wetlands, and more.
-Guardians' 2020 lawsuit forced the Trump administration to review climate implications of selling 1.8 million acres of public lands for fracking across the American West. Now the Bureau of Land Management will have to transparently address the true climate footprint of additional proposals to drill in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming before moving forward.