Wildlands Project History

Wildlands Project "Players:"        The Southeast Wildlands Project (SEWP) 04-09-02




by Tom McDonnell from No Darby Refuge

 This review details much of the structure and objectives of the Wildlands Project. During the past several years, resource industries, state and local governments and communities nationwide have been buried under an avalanche of: new species listings; appeals and litigation to stop water development, logging, mining, grazing and recreational activities. There have been vast amounts of legislation proposing new wilderness areas, heritage areas, scenic rivers, biological corridors, state and national parks or wildlife refuges, as well as management plans involving critical habitat, watersheds or ecosystems. While many of these actions seem to be isolated incidence, a review of Wildlands Project documents suggests that the actions are often well coordinated activities aimed according to the Project's text at establishing a "regional reserve system which will ultimately tie the North American continent into a single Biodiversity Reserve."

 Wildland Project documents from 1993 and 1994 identify 35 different groups as members of the project. As explained later, a large percentage of the appeals and litigation initiated against natural resource dependent industries during the past three years have been initiated by one or more of these member groups. Also, within a January, 1994 document, 38 areas in 12 western states are identified where "road closures would create core roadless areas of more than a million acres." By comparing the list of identified core areas with the list of Wildland Project member groups, one can establish a pattern of where litigation or appeals will occur, and which member groups will likely initiate the appeal or litigation.

 Finally, this review details over 100 species which member groups of the Wildlands Project have petitioned to have listed as threatened or endangered. While some species such as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse are rare, many of the species (rattlesnake, wolverine, lynx, goshawk and Alaskan wolf) are very common. These petitions suggest that these groups are using the Endangered Species Act to promote political and social agendas rather than for conservation of truly threatened species.


I. The Wildlands Project


A. Developers of the Project

 Former Earth First! member and founder, Dave Foreman introduced the concept of the Wildlands Project in his book Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. With the assistance of Dr. Reed Noss and Dr. Micchael Soule’ ( both cofounders of the theory of conservation biology), Dave Foreman was able to evolve his concept into an actual model published in the 1992 special issue of Wild Earth. By January 1994, 75,000 copies of this document were distributed under a grant from the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Reed Noss served with Dave Foreman on the advisory board of the Greater Ecosystem Alliance. Mr. Noss also served as a contractor and scientific advisor to the Department of the Interior where he published a paper entitled "Endangered Ecosystems of the United States: A Preliminary Assessment of Loss and Degradation." This paper was co-authored by Edward LaRoe and J. Michael Scott from the National Biological Survey. Mr. Noss's Wildlands Project model is also referred to as the principle design for biodiversity protection within Section 10 of the United Nation's Global Biodiversity Assessment authorized under the U.N. Convention for Biodiversity.


B. Vision of the Project

 In the introduction to the Wildlands Project, Dave Foreman states that this project serves as a coming together of grass-roots conservation activists and as a foundation for their active vision of how to protect and perpetuate native species and systems across the North American continent. He states, "Our vision is continental...we seek to bring together conservationist, ecologists, indigenous peoples, and others to protect and restore evolutionary processes and biodiversity." He then states that areas such as National Parks and wildernesses are insufficient for they are designed "to protect scenery and recreation, or to create outdoor zoos." He goes on to state that the "Wildlands Project in contrast calls for reserves established to protect wildlife habitat, biodiversity, ecological integrity, ecological service and evolutionary processes --- that is vast interconnected areas of true wilderness." "[W]e see wilderness as the home for unfettered life, free from industrial human intervention." He also says that this wilderness will be "extensive areas of native vegetation in various successional stages, off-limits to human exploitation. Vast landscapes without roads, dams, motorized vehicles, powerlines, overflights, or other artifacts of civilization." Over half the North American land mass is envisioned as making up this massive wilderness reserve system.

 The project calls on the establishment of systems of core wilderness areas where human activity is prohibited, linked with biological corridors. Around these core reserve areas and their interlinking corridors, buffers are to be established. The buffer areas are to be managed to restore ecological health. Human activity associated with civilization -- agriculture, industrial production, urban centers -- will be allowed to continue outside these buffered regions.


C. Project Coordination, Funding and Clearinghouse Capabilities

 The central office of the Wildlands project is located in Tucson, Arizona and serves as a clearinghouse and coordination point for implementing the project. Funds for the project are obtained through solicitations, advertisements and from grant-makers such as the Bullett Foundation. For example, in 1993 and 1994 the Bullett Foundation gave the Wildlands Project member, Oregon Natural Resources Council $95,000 alone for "advocacy work based on good science, agency monitoring and appeals." In their spring 1996 newsletter, Friends of the Bow/Biodiversity Associates acknowledged thanks for the grants it received from the Foundation for Deep Ecology, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Rivers Coalition, Fund for Wild Nature, Harder Foundation, and Reraam Foundation. Donations from Patagonia and New Belgium Brewing Company are also acknowledged.

 In addition to clearinghouse and fund-raising capabilities, the project also has public relations, publishing and research capabilities. As stated in 1993 Wildland Project documents:


The [Wildlands Project] staff will identify and contact regional groups throughout the continent working on biodiversity and wilderness preservation. Where such groups do not exist the Project will attempt to provide support to get them under way or to allocate resources to develop reserve proposals itself for the region." "The Project will also provide scientific analysis of proposals as well as support research on reserve system models, and make the findings available to regional activists and biologists. Technical support on mapping, use of GIS and GAP Analysis will also be available."


D. Regional and Ecosystem Projects

 The Wildlands Project has over 35 known activist groups now working on implementing the project at the regional and ecosystem level. Some of the known members include: Alliance for the Wild Rockies (MT); Biodiversity Legal Foundation (CO); California Wilderness Coalition (CA); Coast Range Association (OR); Environmental Ethics (TX); Finger Lakes Wild! (NY); Forest Guardians (NM); Forest Reform Network (TX); Friends of the Bow [renamed Biodiversity Associates] (WY); Gila Watch (NM); Great Old Broads For Wilderness (UT); Greater Ecosystems Alliance (WA); Heartwood (IN); Hells Canyon Preservation Council (OR); Idaho Conservation League (ID); Klamath Forest Alliance (CA); Lighthawk (NM); Native Forest Council (OR); Oregon Natural Desert Association (OR); Oregon Natural Resources Council (OR); Planet Drum Foundation (CA); Preserve Appalachian Wilderness (VT); Public Lands Action Network (NM); Rest The West (OR); Save America's Forests (Wash. D.C.); Siskiyou Regional Education Project (OR); Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (AK); Sky Island Alliance (AZ); Society for Ecological Restoration (WI); Sororan Arthropod Studies Inc. (AZ); Superior Wilderness Action Network (WI); Thatshenshini Wild (British Columbia, Canada); Virginians for Wilderness (VA); Predator Damage Review (AZ); and The Xerces Society (OR).

 Member groups, first recruit other activists, professional ecologists, sympathetic agency personnel and others to assist in the development of proposals for the Wilderness Recovery Network at the regional and ecosystem level. Trust groups such as Nature Conservancy are plugged into the proposals so that when gaps are identified within their reserve network, these areas can become priorities for land acquisition.

 Using the Noss model, the activist groups will next identify and map all existing protected areas including federal and state wilderness areas, parks and wildlife refuges, heritage areas, monuments, BLM Areas of Critical Concern (ACC) and USFS Research Natural Areas (RNA). To assist in this step, activists rely on a variety of other maps including: National Park system maps, National Wildlife Refuge maps, Forest Service RNA maps, Bureau of Land Management ACC maps, BLM Wilderness Status maps and Nature Conservancy preserve maps.

 After all the currently protected areas are laid out onto a single map, the third step is to overlay this map of currently protected areas with a map of large roadless areas. Roadless areas, also called Big Outside Areas, are defined as roadless areas of 100,000 or more acres in the West, and 50,000 or more acres in the East. These roadless areas may include state, federal and private land. Roadless maps may include protected areas such as National Parks, and unprotected areas such as federal multiple-use lands, state lands and private lands. The only qualify factors of this roadless area map is size in term of acreage and the fact that there are no roads. The Wildlands Project's central Tucson office has at least 385 maps of large roadless areas available and has been working the last year on the development of more detailed state maps to assist regional groups in their work.

 The fourth step is to analyze the geographical arrangement of the map of currently protected areas, with its overlay of roadless areas, for logical complexes of wild places and probable

linking corridors. The protected areas such as wildernesses and National Parks within the Big Outside (roadless) areas are identified as key core areas. Protected areas found outside identified roadless areas are examined to see if they can "serve as beads in Biological Corridors linking Core Wilderness together." Identified roadless areas that are not already protected with National Park, wilderness or other similar designations, are considered unprotected and given the highest priority for conservation. Unprotected roadless areas which are federal and state lands are targeted for future wilderness bills, heritage sites or other protective legislation. Private lands within these areas are given the highest priority for public agency or trust group acquisition.

 In addition to legislation, this map also establishes the priorities for appeals and litigation. As stated within Wildlands documents, "It is usually more important ... to stop an old-growth timber sale within a Big Outside area or in a corridor between two core areas than to stop an old-growth sale in a fragmented area far from potential cores or corridors. It is usually more important to establish a Wilderness Area that is part of a large complex, than one isolated in a matrix of intensive human use. (Keep in mind that this political process must go hand in hand with the ecological evaluation discussed by Noss.)"

 By 1994, the Wildlands Project had identified 38 areas in the western United States where minor road closures would create large roadless areas of more than a million acres. In total, these areas make up more that 75 million acres. These areas include: North Cascades - Washington (3 million acres); Olympia Mountains - Washington (1.2 million acres); Kalmiopsis/Siskiyous/Trinity Alps - Oregon, California (2 million acres); Hells Canyon/Eagle Cap - Oregon, Idaho (1.5 million acres); Selway-Bitterroot/River of No Return - Idaho, Montana (5.5 million acres); Great Rift - Idaho (1 million acres); Owyhee - Idaho, Oregon, Nevada (8 million acres); Oregon Desert - Oregon, Nevada (3 million acres); Bob Marshall - Montana (3 million acres); Beartooth - Montana, Wyoming (1.5 million acres); North Absaroka - Wyoming (1 million acres); Upper Yellowstone/South Absaroka - Wyoming (2.5 million acres); Tetons/SW Yellowstone - Wyoming, Idaho (1 million acres); Wind Rivers - Wyoming (1.2 million acres); Red Desert - Wyoming (1 million acres); Maroon Bells - Colorado (1 million acres); San Juan Mountains - Colorado (2 million acres); Desolation Canyon - Utah (2.2 million acres); High Uintas - Utah (1 million acres); Canyonlands - Utah (3 million acres); San Rafael/Wayne Wonderland - Utah (1 million acres); Escalante/Kaiparowits/Henry Mts. - Utah (3 million acres); Desert Game Range - Nevada (1.5 million acres); Black Rock Desert - Nevada (2.5 million acres); Smoke Creek Desert - Nevada, California (1 million acres); High Sierra - California (3 million acres); Yosemite North - California (1 million acres); Los Padres - California (2 million acres); Death Valley/Inyo - California (1.5 million acres); Panamint Mountains (Death Valley West) - California (1.5 million acres); Mojave Desert - California (1.5 million acres); Bill Williams River - Arizona (1 million acres); Kofa - Arizona (1.5 million acres); Cabeza Prieta - Arizona (2 million acres); Galiuro/Pinleno - Arizona (1 million acres); Grand Canyon/Kaibab - Arizona (3 million acres); Gila/Black Range - New Mexico (1.5 million acres); Guadalupe Escarpment - New Mexico, Texas (1 million acres).

 Once the core reserve (including currently protected lands and roadless areas) areas are established, all USFS, BLM, state forest, military and other types of state, federal and local lands are to be examined for potential addition to the core reserve lands or to buffer areas. Gaps between core reserve areas are identified, and the private lands that can serve as corridors to link these reserve areas are targeted for acquisition by government and trust groups. As stated in the documents, this will be "especially crucial in the east."

 Once all the core wilderness areas, with their corridors and buffer zones are established at a regional basis, they will be linked to other regional systems, until the entire North American continent is converted into large interconnected bioreserve.



E. Current Management of State, Federal and Local Government Lands

 Until all public lands can be examined for inclusion into the reserve system, Wildlands documents states the following about their management:


"One hundred years ago, John Muir argued that the newly withdrawn Forest Reserves in the West should be protected from logging, mining and livestock grazing." A key part of the American Wilderness Recovery Plan is to return to Muir's vision for management of our public lands. Commercial livestock grazing of federal and state lands cannot be justified ecologically or economically. Commercial logging, with the possible exception of small pole, post, and firewood sales, should be prohibited. Mining is an inappropriate use of public lands in virtually all cases. Vehicle use off established roads must be entirely prohibited. By freeing Forest Service, BLM, and state lands of such multiple-abuses, many roads and other developments could be closed. Roads necessary only for logging and grazing or recreational access should be closed. It may be necessary to allow some roads to remain open to official use for short time periods to allow active restoration in severely abused areas, or for reintroduction of extirpated species, but the majority of dirt and gravel roads on the public lands should be closed quickly."

As seen in the last two years, RS 2477 on public right-of-ways is an important issue to the preservationist community.


F. Plants and Animal Recovery

Large predators are a central focus to the Wildlands Project. The project especially keys to large wide-ranging predators like the grizzly and black bear, wolves, cougars, jaguars and lynx. In recent years, many of these groups have been involved in efforts to provide additional federal protection and recovery to grizzlies, jaguars and wolves. In Colorado, California and Oregon there have been successful efforts at the state level to provide additional protection for cougars and black bears. In the western states, Earth First! affiliates have maintained an ongoing effort to shut down coyote control.

 Regarding the rest of the native plant and animals, Wildlands Project documents state that "perhaps 90 percent of the rest of biodiversity will also be protected." Efforts at such levels of protection became evident in a 1995 biodiversity bill introduced into the Colorado state legislature. However, most efforts to date have been petitions to list species like the goshawk and lynx as threatened or endangered.

 Members of the Wildlands project have petitioned for the listing of over 100 species as threatened or endangered and have filed lawsuits for the listing of over 2,000 species. Examples of petitions for listing include the Alliance for the Wild Rockies petition to list the bull trout as endangered throughout its habitat in the Northwestern United States on October 30, 1992. When the USFWS did not act on the petition, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Swan View Coalition and the Friends of the Wild Swan Inc. filed suit in Washington D.C. Federal Court. On April 19, 1994, the Court ordered listing of the bull trout, and on June 12, 1995, the USFWS gave the bull trout a warranted but precluded status. (See next section for further litigation.) On September 19, 1990 this same organization and the Oregon Natural Resources Council petitioned to list the Pacific yew as threatened. This petition was denied on August 16, 1991. On April 1, 1993, they petitioned again, this time to list the North and South Umpqua River sea-run cutthroat trout in Oregon as threatened or endangered, and to designate critical habitat.

 August 18, 1993, the Oregon Natural Resources Council petitioned to list 83 mollusc species as threatened or endangered in the Columbia River Basin. This petition was denied on July 11, 1994 because of insufficient evidence. On May 31, 1994, the Oregon Natural Resources Council and California Wilderness Coalition petitioned for the listing of the subspecies Southern seep salamander, citing that this animal was threatened by local extinction as a result of continued timber harvest, habitat degradation and fragmentation. On June 29, 1995, the USFWS determined this subspecies was actually a species and named it the Southern torrent salamander. The Service also found that even though the species was present throughout its historical range, there was evidence of localized population suppression in areas where logging has occurred, and harvestable habitat that is presently left unprotected. Based on this information, the Service believes listing may be warranted. On April 11, 1995, The Oregon Natural Resources Council, Oregon Natural Desert Association and other environmental groups petitioned for listing of the desert redband trout in the Snake River drainage above Brownlee Dam and below Shoshone Falls in Oregon. They petitioned that the trout be listed as threatened or endangered due to threats including riparian habitat degradation caused by land uses, and by riparian degradation caused by decreased stream flows do to irrigation withdrawal. On September 27, 1995, the USFWS denied the petition because of insufficient evidence and because the petitioners failed to provide information that showed this trout to be a distinct population. The Oregon Natural Resources Council is also attempting to list the Klamath Mountain Province steelhead of Southern Oregon and Northern California as endangered at this time.

 On July 19, 1991, Lighthawk and the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project petitioned to list the goshawk as endangered throughout the forested west. On January 7, 1992, the USFWS found that the petition did not present substantial information that their petition was warranted. On May 9, 1994, the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Greater Ecosystem Alliance, Save the West, Save American's Forests, Native Forest Network and Native Forest Council filed a petition to list the Queen Carlotte goshawk as endangered. The Service issued a 12-month finding on June 29, 1995 that indicated that listing was not warranted. On November 17, 1995, these groups filed suit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. against the USFWS for not listing the goshawk and declaring critical habitat. As a result of the court proceedings the Service began reevaluating the status of the Queen Charlotte goshawk in 1997. The Idaho Conservation League petitioned to list the Kootenai River population of the White sturgeon in Montana and Idaho as endangered on June 11, 1992. This population of sturgeon was listed as endangered on October 6, 1994. Libby Dam is cited as the cause of the sturgeon's decline. In July 1996, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released a draft recovery plan calling for the re-establishment of spring floods. Residents of the area expressed extreme concern about the impacts that such a plan will have on hydropower generation, recreation, timber harvest, and agriculture in the Kootenai River basin.

 The Greater Ecosystem Alliance petitioned to list the North American lynx of the North Cascades ecosystem of Washington as endangered on August 22, 1991. On February 4, 1992, the USFWS found that substantial information had not been presented to indicate that the listing of the lynx was warranted. Suit was filed in federal court on August 10, 1992. The case was settled in Federal Court in Washington D.C. in November, 1993 with the Greater Ecosystem Alliance and National Audubon Society receiving $11,500 in attorney fees and the USFWS reopening its status review on the lynx in February, 1994. After review, the USFWS again denied the petition to list the lynx on December 27, 1994 because there was no evidence that the species was threatened. On March 27, 1995, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation and Defenders of Wildlife filed formal notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish & Wildlife for failure to list the lynx as an endangered or threatened species in the contiguous United States. In a press release, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation stated that hunting and trapping threaten the species. They also state that logging and fire suppression, particularly in the West, has eliminated or reduced habitat for the lynx and its prey. "Road-building activities by the U.S. Forest Service are allowing increased human access into heretofore undisturbed areas, resulting in lynx mortality due to shooting, trapping, and being hit by motorized vehicles." According to the Defenders of Wildlife, the lynx "is on the brink of extinction and is being splintered into smaller, isolated populations that cannot connect with each other."

 The group that has been the most active in filing petitions for the listing of species as threatened or endangered has been the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. On January 16, 1991, Jasper Carlton and his Biodiversity Legal Foundation petitioned for the reclassification of the Cabinet-Yaak and the Selkirk grizzly populations in Montana and Idaho from threatened to endangered. During the same year Jasper Carlton and the animal rights group, Fund for Animals, filed legal action to halt the State of Montana's limited grizzly bear hunt. While the petitition to reclasify the grizzly failed, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation was successful in ending Montana's limited grizzly hunting, and was successful in incorporating the principles of conservation biology into the 1993 revised Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. The new recovery plan called for core protected recovery zones in at least six regions connected by migratory corridors, one of which is 240 miles long. The new plan also called for the recovery of all grizzly bear populations in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and possibly Colorado, and the connection of "island" populations to other grizzly populations before delisting can occur. In the spring of 1997, the Fund for Animals filed suit against the USFWS once again. In an out-of-court settlement, the USFWS agreed to develop habitat targets and standards reflective of the goals in the 1993 Grizzly bear recovery plan. At a June 17, 1997 hearing in Bozeman, Montana, the USFWS took statements from the environmental community as to what these standards should be. Industry was not notified of the hearing, was denied information about the meeting, and was prevented from testifying at the meeting. Louisa Willcox, one of the early founders of Earth First! and project coordinator for Wild Forever, ran the meeting’s speaker agenda for the USFWS. In coordinated fashion, environmental groups asked that: 1) roadless areas be kept roadless; 2) that roaded public lands be reduced below one mile of road per square mile, that grizzly bear recovery zones be doubled in size to over 50,000 square miles; 4) that grizzly bear habitat be connected with corridors; and 5) that grizzly bear food sources and habitat be protected from human disturbance.

 On September 19, 1991, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation petitioned to list the timber rattlesnake as endangered and to designate critical habitat in 31 states. The USFWS found no evidence to list the snake and denied the petition on April 22, 1992. On October 9, 1991 this foundation petitioned to list the Fluvial Arctic grayling in the upper Missouri drainage of Montana and Wyoming. On May 26, 1992, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation and the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project petitioned to list the Ferruginous pygmy-owl in Arizona and Texas as endangered with critical habitat. The USFWS found the Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl in Arizona and Texas to be a separate subspecies from three other pygmy-owl subspecies, and listed the Arizona population of the Cactus ferruginous subspecies of pygmy-owl on April 9, 1997. On October 5, 1992 they petitioned to list the Rocky Mountain Capshell as endangered and to designate critical habitat in Montana and Colorado concurrently with the listing. On June 3, 1993, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Greater Gila Biodiversity Project and Southwest Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for the listing of the Sonora tiger salamander, Huachuca water umbel and Canelo Hills ladies'-tresses in Arizona. On September 27, 1993 they petitioned that the southern Rocky Mountain population of the western boreal toad be listed as endangered. On December 13, 1993 they petitioned to list the Alexander Archipelago wolf in Alaska as threatened. The USFWS made a 90 day finding that the petition was not warranted on February 23, 1995. On February 7, 1996, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation Save the West, Save America’s Forests, Native Forest Network and Native Forest Council filed suit in Federal District Court in the District of Columbia challenging the not-warrant finding. As a result of this suit, the USFWS began reevaluating the status of the wolf in 1997. On January 21, 1994 they petitioned to list the Dakota skipper in North and South Dakota and Minnesota. This petition was denied on February 27, 1995.

 On April 8, 1994, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation petition to list the Kootenai River population of the interior redband trout as threatened or endangered and for the USFWS to concurrently designate critical habitat with the listing. On August 8, 1995, the Service denied this petition after finding the interior redband trout to be widely distributed across Washington, Idaho and Montana and the Service's failure to find the Kootenai River population as being distinct from other populations. On August 3, 1994, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation and Predator Project from Bozeman, Montana petitioned to list the North American wolverine as threatened or endangered throughout its entire known historic range of the 48 contiguous United States. The USFWS found no documentation of the alleged threats or decline in wolverine populations and denied the petition in April, 1995. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation's attempt to list the Atlantic Salmon was also denied in 1995, however, their August 9, 1994 petition to list the Preble's meadow jumping mouse in Wyoming and Colorado was found to be warranted. On February 9, 1996, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation joined the Friends of the Bow (Biodiversity Associates) in filing suit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Fish & Wildlife Service to list the meadow jumping mouse as threatened or endangered. In Washington, D.C. Federal Court, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation received a court order to list the Goliath frog and received $1,300 in legal fees. On December 27, 1994, the legal foundation along with a group named Restore the North Woods petitioned to list the Wood turtle in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. The USFWS denied their petition on May 16, 1995, after finding the turtle to be both abundant and widespread. On December 22, 1994, the Foundation petitioned for the listing of two fisher populations in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming as threatened species, citing habitat fragmentation loss to logging and road building as the cause of decline. On March 1, 1996 the USFWS denied this petition because of insufficient scientific evidence. On July 10, 1995, Jasper Carlton petitioned the USFWS to list the southern California population of the mountain yellow-legged frog as threatened or endangered with critical habitat. Carlton also sent a letter requesting emergency listing of this population of frog on December 21, 1995. While the USFWS denied the request for emergency listing of this frog was not warranted, the Service did determine that the petition to list was warranted on July 8, 1997 and initiated a review. On October 5, 1997, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation petitioned the Service to list the Lesser prairie-chicken as threatened throughout its historic range. Historic range for this bird is believed to consist of 139,500 square miles in portions of southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and eastern New Mexico. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation in typical fashion sited present and potential future habitat destruction caused by agricultural conversions, habitat fragmentation, grazing, brush control, oil and gas development, hunting, and predation as reasons for the bird’s decline. On July 8, 1997, the Service initiated a 90 day period of findings regarding the petition. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation has also attempted to list the prairie dog as a Category 2 species without success.


II. Appeals and Litigation

 Members of the Wildlands Project have been very active in litigating the shut down of livestock grazing, mining and timber activities. On March 3, 1995, 11 of the 35 known member groups had suits filed against the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thirty-nine separate suits were filed by these 11 organizations, however, this figure does not represent all the citizen suits filed. For example, Jasper Carlton from the Biodiversity Legal Center filed two suits under his personal name. Other suits are filed under names such as the Coalition of Arizona and New Mexico, and still other suits are filed under names such as the Audubon Society or National Wildlife Federation who haven't publicly announced membership within the Wildlands Project but have pursued similar goals.

 A lawsuit which could have had great long-term ramifications on land use and property rights involved Category I and II species listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). On November 4, 1991, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Fund for Animals and eight other conservation activists filed notice of their intent to sue the USFWS for failing to adequately implement the Endangered Species Act in regard to approximately 600 Category I and 3,000 Category II species. In a December, 1992 settlement, the USFWS agreed to propose some 400 additional species for listing by September 1996, and to expedite final consideration of another 900 species "for which definitive scientific information has not been collected." This settlement granted USFWS for the first time, authority to list species using a "multispecies, ecosystem approach" rather than a species by species method.

One of the more aggressive organizations in the filing citizen suits has been the Oregon Natural Resources Council. In March 1995, this organization had 16 active citizen suits regarding the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and NEPA. The Oregon Natural Resource Council, Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Oregon Natural Desert Council were involved in the appeal to shut down multiple-use on the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla National Forests in Oregon and Washington. The Oregon Natural Resources Defense Council also received a court order for designation of critical habitat for the Western snowy plover on November, 30, 1994 and $7,147.54 in legal fees. The Hells Canyon Preservation Council was involved in litigation to shut down sheep grazing in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area of Oregon and Idaho in 1996.

 On November 24, 1992, the Idaho Conservation League and the Committee for Idaho's High Desert settled against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Washington D.C. Court a case to list

the Bruneau Hot Springs Snail. American Farm Bureau Federation immediately filed suit and the Courts found that the USFWS had violated the Endangered Species Act in listing the snail. The Idaho Conservation League then appealed U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan's rejection of the USFWS's endangered listing of the Bruneau Hot Springs Snail to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. On June 29, 1995, the appellate court overturned the district court decision and reinstated the Bruneau hot springsnail to the endangered species list. However, a comment period on materials related to the listing of the snail was made available until December 15, 1995. The listing of this snail could be used to deprive 59 agricultural operations of the legitimate use of their water rights on 21,206 acres of irrigated farmland. These farms and ranches support nearly 1,000 individuals and represented $1.3 million direct dollars in farm income to Idaho annually. 

On August 24, 1995, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity (Gila Watch) was successful in having U.S. District Court Judge Carl Muecke place an injunction to stop all logging on 11 National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico believed to be inhabited by spotted owls. The U.S. Forest Service brought three different biological opinions on impacts of logging on the Mexican spotted owl, but all three were rejected by the plaintiff. On September 30, 1996, a personal complaint was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit of San Francisco to have Judge Muecke resign from the case, which he did on October 10, 1996. Judge Roger Strand was appointed to the case and after review of the biological opinion lifted the injunction on December 4, 1996. During the shutdown, six of nine Arizona timber companies went out of business and four thousand people were laid off from work. Of the three remaining timber companies, they were forced to close three of the their five remaining sawmills. Annual timber harvest fell from over 150 million board feet in 1994 to 12.8 million feet in 1996 and millions of dollars were lost as the injunction continued for 16 months.

 The Southwest Center for Biological Diversity and the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project have also received court orders for listing and/or to have critical habitat designated for the Ferruginous pygmy owl (D.C., Arizona, 8/25/94); Jaguar (D.C., Arizona, 8/23/94); Loach minnow and spikedace (D.C., Arizona, 9/30/94); Canelo Hills ladies'-tresses, Huachuca water umbel, and Sonora tiger salamander (3/10/95); and the Southwestern willow flycatcher (D.C., Arizona, 12/5/94). The Southwest Center for Biodiversity/Greater Gila Biodiversity Project was successful in litigation to list the Mexican spotted owl. In 1997, they again prevailed, this time in the Tenth Circuit Court to gain standing for intervention in efforts to delist the Mexican spotted owl.

 In May 1996, the Forest Guardians filed suit in U.S. District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct studies to determine how grazing is affecting the Southwest willow flycatcher, the Mexican spotted owl, the Rio Grande silvery minnow, the Loach minnow, the spikedace and the Pecos bluntnose shiner. Forest Guardians' John Horning stated in the May 21, 1996 edition of the Albuquerque Journal, "We question whether any level of grazing (along streams and rivers) is appropriate." The suit contends that BLM Resource Management Plans were developed prior to the listing of a number of endangered and threatened species. Because of those listing, the Forest Guardians says that the BLM must re-initiate consultation with the USFWS to determine how grazing will impact these species. Until conclusions are reached in those consultation, the Forest Guardians has asked for an injunction to halt grazing on BLM lands in New Mexico and Arizona.

 Alliance of the Wild Rockies filed an appeal in the summer of 1994 to shut down sheep grazing on the Lewis & Clark National Forest in Montana. On November 30, 1994, the Alliance of the Wild Rockies filed suit in Federal Court asking that all National Forests in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and northern Nevada be shut down because the USFS failed to provide for the long term viability of the bull trout. This is the same species the Alliance petitioned to list as endangered on October 30, 1992. Wildlife Damage Review has coordinated with group such as Native Ecosystem Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Predator Project (Predators for Intact Ecosystems) to shut down critical Animal Damage Control on both Forest Service and BLM lands.


III. Case Study Of The Wildlands Project Member: Friends Of The Bow


Friends of the Bow was originally formed to protect the Medicine Bow National Forest. In 1994, its work expanded to also protecting and connecting the Black Hills of South Dakota and the northern portion of the San Juans Mountains in Colorado to the Medicine Bow National Forest of Wyoming. Friends of the Bow operated as an informal organization along with an organization called the Biodiversity Associates until it received non-profit tax status. The purpose of the Friends of the Bow is to "preserve, protect, and restore native species and their habitats" Their "work to protect biological diversity and wildlands" in 1995 was funded, as mentioned above, with grants from Foundation for Deep Ecology, Sierra Club, National Rivers Coalition and Wilderness Society, as well as with donations from companies such as Patagonia.

From 1994 to 1996, Friend of the Bow focused its efforts on the U.S. Forest Services long-range forest plans for the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota and the Route and Medicine Bow National Forests in Wyoming and Colorado. In regard to the Black Hills National Forest plan, Friends of the Bow/Biodiversity Associates state, "Now the Hills is the first forest in the nation to undergo a complete plan revision. Because it will set a critical precedent for other revisions in the region, its essential that the new plan protect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning rather than emphasizing timber cutting." They go on to say, "in the past 2 years we have rallied concerned citizens to comment on the draft, performed a detailed technical analysis of the draft plan, submitted 100 pages of our own written analysis, and coordinated the work of expert ecologists and a forest economist."


In regard to the Black Hills as a whole, Friend of the Bow says:


"We see a couple of thing needing to happen. First, citizens need to reclaim their personal power and stop allowing big logging companies to divide us from ourselves, from each other, and from the earth which is our natural source of health and wealth.


The Forest Service should be putting people to work revegetating old roads, reconditioning streams, and restoring native species. Meanwhile, Congress and the industry should be providing leadership for retraining workers. Finally, the government should stop subsidizing the exploitation public lands to meet corporations' and society's unrestrained demands for products."


In its spring 1996 newsletter: Badger Tracks, Friends of the Bow entitled one article "Black Hills Wildlands Threatened by Mining." This article stated that "a large mining "exploration" is being proposed in northeast Wyoming's Sand Creek Roadless Area (SCRA) - the most pristine area on the Black Hills National Forest." The article went on to say, "Unfortunately, in the past few years several proposals for gold mines have threatened Sand Creek. The "exploration" road construction and digging would damage the stream [Sand Creek], eliminate this last block of undisturbed forest, destroy is special character, and render Sand Creek ineligible for designation as Wilderness or Wild and Scenic River. To make matter worse, the mining claims could be "patented,"...the most pristine area left on the Black Hill would become private property owned by the mining companies and converted into an industrial site or sold to other developers." The article asked its member to prepare for action in regard to this mining exploration proposal.

 In 1996, the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests also began revising their forest plans at which time Friends of the Bow initiated its "Connecting to the Routt" plan. In regard to these forest plans, Friend of the Bow stated:


"Right now there's a great opportunity for people who care about protecting wild country and wild species in northern Colorado. The Routt National Forest...is revisiting its management plan. It is critical for citizens to tell the Forest Service that protection of free-flowing rivers, undeveloped lands, old-growth forest, and native wildlife and plants should take priority over logging and road building in the new forest plan."


"Through our work in protecting roadless areas on the Medicine Bow National Forest (MBNF), which abuts the Routt to the north over the Wyoming-Colorado state line, we've come to appreciate these two forests as one ecosystem." The 'Bow has been hit hard by decades of "sacrifice" forestry, but there are some wild areas left. And while much of the alpine high country in the Park range has been protected, important forest corridors connecting with the MBNF have not." Because preserving biodiversity means protecting habitat across political and administrative boundaries, we are working hard to get the Forest Service, BLM, and the states to protect the remaining forested river and stream connections between the two forests. For example, the Encampment River runs north from the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness down to Hog Park in Wyoming and then, one mile after entering Wyoming and the Medicine Bow NF, it enters the Encampment River Wilderness. Miles later, as it leaves USFS land, the river passes through one section of state land then enters the proposed BLM Encampment River Wilderness. Protecting the entire river, hopefully by designation as under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, would help assure these two forests remain ecologically connected. The designation could include almost the entire river, from inside the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness all the way through the Bow and the proposed BLM wilderness area."


The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act is critical to this plan because it would place millions of acres of private land also found in this region under federal control.

 Friend of the Bow/Biodiversity Associates has been involved in a number of lawsuits to protect the "wildlands" of its region. In addition to the lawsuit filed on the Preamble meadow jumping mouse, Friends of the Bow has filed suits to stop grazing on the Medicine Bow National Forest, to stop predator control programs on the Rawlins and Rock Springs Bureau of Land Management Districts in Wyoming, and to stop logging, bear baiting and dredging. In June of 1994, Friend of the Bow sued the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for failing to provide a meaningful response to their appeal of the Banner timber sale in Wyoming. In August 1994, the judge in this case granted an injunction against the sale and ruled that the USFS had violated the Administrative Procedures Act. This case was still pending as of July 1996. After eight appeals, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Bow filed suit on October 4, 1994 to stop the logging of the Needles and Grizzly timber sales on the Black Hills National Forest. On November 22, 1995, the same two groups again filed suit to stop the Hollow Timber sale on the Black Hills National Forest.

 Joining with Fund for Animals, Friend of the Bow filed suit against the USFS on July 21, 1995 to stop bear baiting on National Forest lands. Friend of the Bow filed for a summary judgement to stop bear baiting on Forest Service lands nationwide on December 22, 1995. This case remains unresolved as of July, 1996.

 The Friend of the Bow represents a prime example of the efficiency of the Wildland Project itself. Not only was the Wildlands Project able to establish a project organization to further its objectives in this region of Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota, but the Wildlands Project was fully capable of providing this organization with professional staffing, necessary funding and a full array of technical and legal consultants to ensure that this "project" is successful.


IV. Summary

 Many of the appeals, listings of threatened and endangered species, litigation, legislation, regulations and management plans at the state and federal level have been analyzed by natural resource industries as separate issues. After reviewing the Wildlands Project, its associated member groups, and the issues which they have been involved in the last four years, it becomes evident that many of the issues once thought to be independent cases, are in actuality interrelated issues. To understand the foundation and logic for many of the issues we face today, one must understand the concepts and structure of the Wildlands Project.


TM 4/5/95 Updated 7/22/97

Wildlands Project "Players:"

The list thus far..................


• Canadian Biodiversity Information
• Center for Tropical Conservation
• Endangered and Extinct Species List
• Flora and Fauna Database
• IUCN (World Conservation Union)
• NatureServe Database
• The Nova Scotia Ecology Action Centre
• Society for Conservation Biology
• Tailwinds Magazine
• The Convention on Biological Diversity
• Rare, Threatened and Endangered Mammals

Wildlands Conservation Planning Partners

• Alliance for the Wild Rockies
• American Wildlands
• Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
• Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition
• Conception Coast Project
• Forest Guardians
• Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
• Hill Country Wild
• Legacy  The Landscape Connection
• New Mexico Wilderness Alliance*
• Round River Conservation Studies
• Siskiyou Project
• Sky Island Alliance
• Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project
• Superior Wilderness Action Network
• Yellowstone to Yukon

Geographical Information Systems

• ESRI Conservation Program
• Earth Design Consultants

Conservation Partners

• American Rivers
• Ancient Forest International
• California Wilderness Coalition
• Central Cascades Alliance
• Center for Biological Diversity
• Conservation Biology Institute
• Defenders of Wildlife
• Forest Forever
• Friends of the River
• Forest Watch
• Keeping Track, Inc.
• Land Trust Alliance
• LightHawk
• National Wildlife Federation
• Naturalia
• Northwest Ecosystem Alliance
• Oregon Natural Resources Council
• Patagonia
• Predator Conservation Alliance
• Pronatura
• Sierra Club
• Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Ecosystem Project
• Silva Forest Foundation
• Society for Ecological Restoration
• Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition
• Southwest Forest Alliance
• Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
• The Nature Conservancy
• The Wilderness Land Trust
• The Wilderness Society
• Wildlands CPR
• Wildlife Conservation Society
• World Wildlife Fund  Canada
• World Wildlife Fund  USA
• Yukon Wildlands Project

*Note: The Southwest Environmental Center is part of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

The Southeast Wildlands Project (SEWP)


In 1994, The Wildlands Project (TWP) identified the southeastern United States as a pilot region of vital ecological significance. The Southeast Wildlands Project (SEWP) evolved out of a vision-mapping workshop TWP subsequently held at Wakulla Springs, Florida on January 20-22, 1995.

The Regional Steering Committee selected at the Wakulla Springs workshop held an organizational meeting at the Coastal Plains Institute in Tallahassee on September 30, 1995. The consensus was that TWP's most valuable role here would be to act as a catalyst to initiate statewide planning of natural area networks in each of the southeastern states. The Coastal Plains Institute and Conway Conservation offered to provide institutional and administrative support for wildlands work in the region.

Florida was identified as a model for what needed to be accomplished in the  other states. A charette heldthere in 1991 produced preliminary maps that have served as a basis for numerous integrated  conservation efforts, guided a$300-million-a-year state land acquisition program, spawned innovative public-private land conservation efforts, and initiated processes now culminating in statewide greenway planning oriented around preservation of core ecological reserves and linkages.

The committee decided that the Southeast Wildlands Project's first effort  should be to conduct a series ofsimilar charettes to bring together the conservation planning leaders in each southeastern state and produce preliminary wildlands planning maps. This process is intended to initiate dialog on largescale ecological reserve network planning issues and provide map-based concepts that can be refined and implemented through subsequent spin-off projects.

After the regional organizational meeting, the Coastal Plains Institute and most of the other initial participants slipped into a passive role. Conway  Conservation took the lead in managing SEWP'sactivities, primarily through  the efforts of Linda Duever and Tom Hoctor. It has always seemed that creating and maintaining a SEWP organization would needlessly divert energy from TWP's regional goals.SEWP's role is seen to be that of inspiring, initiating, facilitating, and coordinating local wildlands  planning throughout the southeast, rather than creating top-down regional structures and plans. SEWPtherefore functions as an effort, rather than as an organization.

Wildlands Planning Charettes

To date, all SEWPs funded projects have involved producing statewide wildlands charettes. A charette is an intensive planning workshop designed to  permit natural resources experts to quickly and systematicallygenerate an ecological reserve design map that can be used as a preliminary framework for longterm conservation planning. Such a charette is structured to synthesize  the best available ecologicalinformation into consensus maps representing an integrated system of conservation lands capable of sustaining the state's ecosystems over the longterm.

The wildlands charettes involve two days of intensive core, buffer, and  corridor mapping by the 30-50 people identified as most knowledgeable aboutthe landscape distribution of each state's ecological features. During the charettes, participants work with a rearrangeable set of 1:250,000 mylar GIS  overlaymaps including USGS quads and maps showing land cover types, transportation systems, natural heritage element locations, public lands, existing protected areas, trails and greenways, county boundaries, and hydrologic units. After the charette, the resulting conceptual reserve design maps are distributed on CD with explanatory text. The overlay map sets are left with the state land trust support organization, where they are used to develop more refined conservation planning maps at regional meetings around the state.

Details of how the charettes are conducted are available in the North Carolina and Georgia reports described below and in the handout Linda Duever  and Tom Hoctor prepared for the "Mapping Charettes"workshop they produced for TWP's October 1998 Grassroots Rendezvous.

The North Carolina Wildlands Charette

The Merck Family Fund awarded The Wildlands Project a grant for SEWP to  conduct a North CarolinaWildlands Charette in Chapel Hill October 30-31,  1997. Additional financial support was providedby The Carolina Fund and the  North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resource (NCDENR).

Conway Conservation worked with Steve Gatewood of TWP and conservation GIS  specialist Jim Strittholt of Earth Design Consultants to produce this charette in cooperation with the Conservation Trust for NorthCarolina and a steering committee comprised of natural resource information experts from NCDENR,  the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy,The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Duke University, and the North Carolina Gap Analysis Project.

The Georgia Wildlands Charette

The Turner Foundation awarded TWP a grant for SEWP to continue the process with a Georgia Wildlands Charette held in Atlanta April 30 - May 1, 1998. Conway Conservation worked with Steve Gatewood and Jim Strittholt to produce this charette in cooperation with the Georgia Land Trust Service Center, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Georgia Office of The Nature  Conservancy and a steering committee comprised of natural resource information experts from GADNR, the Georgia Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Chattooga River Watershed Coalition, the Georgia Greenways Initiative, the Georgia Wildlife Federation, and the Georgia Gap Analysis Project..

South Carolina

Through the South Carolina Office of The Nature Conservancy, TWP received a grant from the Moriah  Fund for a 1998 South Carolina Wildlands Charette.Steve Gatewood and Linda Duever attempted to work with a steering committee selected by the Moriah Fund to plan this charette, but the committee later decided to do a workshop incorporating timber industry perspectives instead of the strictly ecological mapping TWP had envisioned. TWP therefore decided to let TNC conduct this process, then to review the results and plan further South Carolina efforts after that. TNC subsequently held a workshop that produced maps that should be a good beginning for design of a South Carolina wildlands network.


The Lyndhurst Foundation and the Albert A. List Foundation gave TWP funding for SEWP to conduct a 1999 Tennessee Wildlands Charette. Conway Conservation selected a steering committee based upon the recommendations of cooperators from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. Steve Gatewood and Linda Duever met  with that committee in February, 1999. The committee's initial reaction was  extremely enthusiastic and supportive, but pressure and misinformation from the timber industry later made several key state-agency representatives reluctant to proceed in association with TWP. Although ecological charette input would have been useful, valuable green infrastructure plans are being generated through other Tennessee efforts.

Other Southeastern States

SEWP hopes to produce wildlands charettes in Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but no fundraising support has yet been available for these projects.

Cooperating Organizations

SEWP maintains ongoing cooperation with a number of other organizations in addition to TWP, Conway Conservation, and Earth Design Consultants.

The Coastal Plains Institute supports SEWP's activities (non-financially).

SEWP has also established a cooperative relationship with the Coastal Plain Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). Linda Duever serves as the liaison person for both organizations.

All the above organizations, plus the Natural Areas Association and the Trust for Public Land (Southeastern Office) have served as named sponsors for SEWP's wildlands charettes.

SEWP has also had cooperative relationships with key contacts in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Conservation Fund, the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Land Trust Alliance, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, other national and regional groups, and many other state and local agencies and organizations.

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