Wildlife Program

Cottonwood's Wildlife Program seeks to protect rare species and the habitat they need to remain on the landscape. To this end, we employ the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws in courts to protect our most imperiled species and their habitat. To date, we have protected more than 12 million acres of “critical habitat” for the threatened Canada lynx and thousands of acres of “core” habitat for the threatened Yellowstone grizzly bears. Please donate and help us continue to protect the species that make the West so special.


Current Cases

Cottonwood Files Lawsuit to Protect Important Grizzly Bear Corridor

Cottonwood has filed an Endangered Species Act lawsuit on behalf of our members, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and Gallatin Wildlife Association. The lawsuit seeks to stop the U.S. Government from grazing domestic sheep in the Centennial Mountains of southwest Montana. The Centennial mountains are widely regarded by biologists as one of the most important travel corridors for grizzly bears. The mountain range is unique because of its east-west configuration, allowing grizzly bears and other carnivores to travel between Yellowstone National Park and large wilderness areas in Idaho.

Every year the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station grazes more than a thousand domestic sheep high in the Centennial mountains. The Yellowstone Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has previously sent a letter to the Sheep Station asking it to find an alternative place to graze the sheep.

The lawsuit challenges the Biological Opinion for the Sheep Station, which says that there have been no grizzly bear/human encounters at the Sheep Station. Documents we received through a Freedom of Information Act request say that sheepherders have been chased by grizzly bears in the past.

In October 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovered the collar from grizzly bear number 726 from a creek in the Summer West allotment. A Fish and Wildlife Service report says the collar had been cut off and was being held in a creek under a rock. Investigators ruled out hunters as suspects. The last live location of grizzly bear 726 is in the same area as where the sheep were grazing. An empty bullet cartridge was found at the sheepherder's camp.

Read Secretary Vilsack's Letter to Congress.

Make a tax-deductible donation to help protect grizzly bears and other wildlife in the Centennial mountains.

Cottonwood Files Lawsuit to Protect 40,000 Acres of Lynx Habitat in Montana

Cottonwood has filed a lawsuit to protect 40,000 acres of potential habitat for the threatened Canada lynx in the Little Belt Mountains of north-central Montana. The U.S. Forest Service has proposed to clearcut and burn parts of the area without determining whether lynx are present or how the activities would impact their potential habitat.

Recent surveys by the Forest Service indicate lynx may be present in the area. Trapping records and data from radio-collared lynx also show that lynx have historically occupied the area. Cottonwood is working to ensure habitat for threatened Canada lynx is protected in Montana.

Cottonwood Works to End Wolverine Trapping and Secure Endangered Species Protections

Cottonwood filed a lawsuit on behalf of its members and other conservation organizations against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2012 for failing to put the wolverine on the list of threatened and endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a proposed rule that addressed the errors raised in our complaint.

The total effective population number of wolverines in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming is only 35. Notwithstanding this tiny population size, the State of Montana has allowed trappers to kill 5 wolverines every year. Wolverine trapping in Montana will soon be prohibited once the new rule takes effect.

Cottonwood Works to Secure Endangered Species Act Protections
for the White-Tailed Prairie Dog

Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and several of our conservation partners have initiated a lawsuit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to put the White-Tailed Prairie Dog on the list of Threatened and Endangered Species.

White-Tailed Prairie Dogs are burrowing mammals found in the sagebrush-steppe ecosystems of southcentral Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. They provide food and shelter for endangered black-footed ferrets, prey for badgers, ferruginous hawks, and golden eagles. The prairie dog plays a key role in mixing soil, which results in better forage for grazers like pronghorn and bison.

White-Tailed Prairie Dogs are facing significant threats such as oil and gas development, mineral development, poisoning, recreational shooting, off-road vehicle use and plague. They have been eliminated from 99% of their historical habitat.

Cottonwood is working to ensure the White-Tailed Prairie Dog receives Endangered Species Act protections so that they remain on the Western landscape.

Related News: "Groups file lawsuit to protect white-tailed prairie dog"