Seeks to place dramatic restrictions on how America's public land may be used
Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) advocates "the protection of all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities," and focuses on what it considers the two most serious environmental threats facing the planet: "the accelerating rate of extinction of species and the associated loss of biological diversity, and habitat alteration and destruction."
DOW’s operating programs consist of “Action Alerts” and “Legislative Alerts” exhorting DOW supporters to contact their elected representatives in Congress regarding environmental issues of concern. To facilitate this process, the DOW website provides pre-written letters that people can easily copy and forward to the appropriate legislators. As of April 2006 these operating programs included, in addition to several involving the preservation of wolves and other species:
(a) Stop Fueling Exxon-Mobil’s Anti-Wildlife Agenda: This campaign condemns the oil company’s “insistence on putting corporate profits before the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat,” its “active support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” and its “funding of junk science to hide the real facts about global warming.”
(b) Stand Up for Endangered Species: This campaign abjures “a reckless endangered species bill … Rep. Richard Pombo's misleadingly titled ‘Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005’ … [which] could actually lead to more wildlife extinctions and undermine our national commitment to protecting endangered plants and animals.”
DOW also backs the Wildlands Project, an initiative that seeks the removal of all signs of human existence from fully one-fourth of the American land mass, with the aim of "giving the land back to nature." And high on its agenda in recent years has been staunch opposition to Bush Administration proposals for oil exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
DOW condemns activities it deems destructive to the environment, including logging, ranching, mining, and even the use of recreational motorized vehicles. In a related measure, it seeks to restrict the use of motor vehicles by border-patrol agents stationed along the Mexican/American border. Says DOW Executive Vice President Jamie Rappaport Clark, "The Border Patrol's blanket requests for unlimited motorized access to protected parks, monuments, and wilderness areas are being made behind closed doors without any opportunity for public involvement. While we recognize the critical importance of the Border Patrol's mission and are committed to cooperating with this agency, this secretive push for unfettered access is a recipe for future conflict."
DOW opposes the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) proposed construction of security fences and round-the-clock high-intensity lighting on the Arizona-Mexico border, which would serve to curb illegal entry into the U.S. from Mexico. When DOW applied pressure on the DHS, the latter responded by agreeing to consider other alternatives. According to DOW, the erection of such barriers "would have ended any hope for further cross-border movement by jaguars, ocelots, and a host of other border species."
In 2003, DOW condemned the Department of Defense for seeking exemption from restrictive environmental policies while fighting the War on Terror. DOW was joined in this effort by such groups asthe Center for Public Environmental Oversight; Earthjustice; the Endangered Species Coalition; the Military Toxics Project; the National Wildlife Federation; the Natural Resources Defense Council; and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. In a joint press release issued in March 2003, these organizations condemned "the Bush Administration's ongoing campaign to roll back the nation's environmental protections ... attempt[ing] to sacrifice an integral component of America's national character -- our natural heritage -- under the guise of national security."
In the presidential election year of 2004, DOW published at least 14 newsletters critical of the Bush administration. In the aftermath of President Bush's reelection that year, DOW President Rodger Schlickeisensaid, "At Defenders, we have fought a three-year battle to blunt a string of radical environmental attacks by this Administration and we're not about to stop now.” Prior to his tenure as DOW President, Schlickeisen served as a chief of staff to U.S. Democratic Senator Max Baucus. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the League of Conservation Voters.