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Western Environmental Law Center

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animals, Crime & Law, Environment, Environmental Education, Natural Resources Conservation & Protection, Public Interest Law, Wildlife Preservation & Protection

Mission: The Western Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to safeguard the wildlife, wildlands, and communities of the American West. We envision a West with thriving, resilient wildlands, waters, and wildlife; a region powered by clean, renewable energy; and communities that are rooted in an ethic of conservation. We combine our legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues in the West in the most strategic and effective manner. We work at the national, regional, state, and local levels; and in all three branches of government. WELC integrates national policies and regional perspective with the local knowledge of our 140+ partner groups to implement smart and appropriate place-based actions. WELC has a highly experienced team of expert attorneys, conservation biologists and Western policy experts. We work close to the ground, with offices in Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, and Washington. As a public interest law firm, WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish our mission.

Results: We have secured critical victories for the environment and communities of the American West. Our top victories of 2015 are: Safeguarding Imperiled Canada Lynx Through New Trapping Rules in Montana: We established a "lynx protection zone" in occupied lynx habitat in northwest Montana and the Greater Yellowstone region. The protection zone restricts the size and placement of traps that catch and sometimes kill lynx, and requires bobcat trappers to check their traps every 48 hours. According to the best available science, these changes will significantly reduce or eliminate the risk of accidental lynx trapping, and the likelihood of injury or death if an animal is caught. In Montana, we were also able to maintain the closure of the wolverine trapping season for an additional two years. Protecting Old-Growth Forests, Spotted Owls, and Salmon: We defeated a 50-year logging plan for 150,000 acres of forest in Siskiyou County, California, which allowed aggressive logging of spotted owl habitat and granted permits to harm or kill endangered species. The logging would have also impacted federally protected salmon, steelhead, and the fisher, an animal proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Securing a Historic Win for Climate Change: Representing eight youths, we filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington demanding that the state take serious action on climate change by using the most recent climate science when crafting its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The King County Superior ruled in our favor to have the Washington Department of Ecology to reconsider its denial of the youths' petition. This is the first case in the United States in which a state agency was ordered to consider the best available climate science when regulating carbon dioxide emissions. For more results on our work, please visit: http://www.westernlaw.org/successes

Target demographics: safeguard wildlife, wildlands, and communities.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 140 partner and client organizations

Geographic areas served: the American West

Programs: Wildlands: Defending and restoring the natural heritage of the West Wildlife: Protecting and recovering wildlife species indigenous to the West Climate and Energy: Fighting dirty energy while promoting a clean, renewable energy future in the West

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