Our Work

Keeping the Mountain Highlands of Colorado New Mexico intact for Wildlife

WELC is working with the Colorado and New Mexico Governor’s office, conservationists, and with private landowners to explore protection of the CO/NM Mountain Highlands. The Mountain Highlands of Colorado and New Mexico are the southern extent of the Southern Rockies Ecoregion and a transition zone between this mountainous country and the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. This transition zone is important for native wildlife such as black bear, mule deer, and elk.

3 Strikes Policy: A roadblock to Mexican wolf recovery (WELC article)

Ranchers file suit against management changes

Standard Operating Procedure 13 (SOP-13) was a three-strikes rule that required removal of any wolf guilty of three cattle attacks in one year. 

On the heels of our successful litigation resulting in the withdrawal of the Standard Operating Procedure 13, a coalition of New Mexico ranchers and two Counties, filed suit challenging the changes.

Combating Habitat Fragmentation

Saving the HD Mountains for Native Wildlife

The HD Mountains (named for a 19th-century cattle brand) are located in the San Juan Basin of Southwest, Colorado within the Southern Rockies Ecoregion. They are a 40,000-acre roadless area containing many of the last remaining stands of unlogged, centuries-old ponderosa pine forests in the Southern Rockies. Such large blocks of undeveloped, low elevation habitat is becoming increasingly rare across the West.

Protecting Western Waters

Taking aim at Montana's exempt well loophole

Rural homeowners, ranchers, and farmers in Montana and other western states have long relied on a provision of the law that affords them the opportunity to drill a small well without first obtaining a permit. It’s an approach that has made sense for sparse rural developments even though water is scarce in the West and its use is typically governed by a first in time, first in right doctrine.

Back on the road to recovery

12/10/2009

The Mexican gray wolf has taken a big step back into the region. A recent legal settlement has buoyed efforts to recover the endangered animal, and the wolf will soon have freer range over the Arizona, New Mexico and possibly Colorado backcountry.

Once indigenous to the local region, wolves were almost completely eradicated from the American West by the 1950s. The animals were eliminated largely for the benefit of the livestock industry, and most ranchers and farmers remain strongly opposed to the idea of returning the canids to the region.

Protecting Public Access to Fishing Streams in Montana

Mitchell Slough, a branch of the Bitterroot River in western Montana, is a vibrant fishery popular with locals. About 10 years ago, a group of wealthy private landowners, including Charles Schwab and former rock star Huey Lewis, began plotting ways to keep locals away from the stream, which runs behind their properties. (In Montana, all natural water bodies are open to the public, so long as the water is accessible without trespass over private property.)

Keeping the Northern Rockies Connected (press release)

The Western Environmental Law Center has successfully preserved what is, according to expert biologists, one of the best remaining places for critical wildlife movement along the entire Continental Divide.

"We will continue to protect this critical linkage in the Northern Rockies for wildlife that is threatened by resource extraction, sprawl, energy development and energy transmission lines" says Greg Costello, Executive Director of WELC.

Grazing Decisions: Ensuring Public Participation

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the U.S. Forest Service’s decisions concerning the use and management of National Forest lands  – a public resource – must be submitted for public review and comment. In this case, the U.S. Forest Service has foregone this important requirement when it comes to issuing new 10 year grazing permits in the Helena National Forest.

Reducing Risk of Climate Change from BLM actions

The threat of global warming and climate change presents us with a defining moment. We believe that the federal stewards of our public lands – the U.S. Bureau of Land Management – are part of this defining moment. We’ve taken action to ensure that BLM addresses the significant emissions of greenhouse gases from oil and gas leasing and development, reduces these emissions by implementing proven, cost-effective measures, and ensures the resiliency our wildlands in the face of climate change impacts.

Conservationists Defend Wildlife and Natural Solitude in the Lewis and Clark National Forest (press release)

12/09/2008
WELC assists the Montana Wilderness Association in a lawsuit to defend the U.S. Forest Service’s travel plan for Lewis and Clark National Forest

The Montana Wilderness Association (“MWA”) filed to intervene in a lawsuit to defend the U.S. Forest Service’s travel management plan for the Little Belt, Castle, and north half of the Crazy Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Matt Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center is representing MWA in this matter.

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