- Environmental advocacy group
- Views the environmental policies of Republican presidential administrations as highly destructive
- Seeks to place dramatic restrictions on how America’s public land may be used
- Claims that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial activity contribute heavily to climate change
Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) is committed to promoting “wildlife and habitat conservation” as well as “the safeguarding of biodiversity.” Proceeding from the premise that “wildlife and the natural world” are imbued with an “inherent value … regardless of whether individual species are recognized as having utilitarian or aesthetic value to humankind,” the organization seeks to “restore imperiled species throughout North America by transforming policies and institutions and promoting innovative solutions.” While professing to “use the best available science to inform and guide our decisions and priorities,” DOW concedes that science “may not always be the sole driver of our actions.”
Among the activities that DOW condemns as destructive to the natural environment are logging, ranching, mining, and even the use of recreational motorized vehicles in the wilderness. In a related measure, the organization sought in 2004 to restrict the use of “hummers, motorcycles and other off-road vehicles” by border-patrol agents stationed along the Mexican/American border.
Moreover, DOW has long fought against legislative proposals for the construction of a security barrier (to prevent illegal migration into the U.S.) along America’s southern border. During the George W. Bush Administration, for instance, the organization warned that the erection of a border wall would have “serious and lasting” effects on the region’s wildlife, water, and air. Similarly, when President Donald Trump’s Administration in 2017 released a budget proposal that included funding for an expansion of the existing (and inadequate) border wall, DOW’s Southwest Program Director characterized the proposal as “a sellout of our nation’s natural heritage”; “a misuse of funding that should instead be used for programs that keep our air and water clean and protect our wildlife and wild places”; and an ill-advised measure that “would divide families and communities along the border and bisect and isolate important Southwestern landscapes, pushing borderland wildlife … to the brink of extinction.”
Contempt for Republican political leaders and their environmental positions has been a longstanding tradition for DOW. Some additional examples:
- In 1982, DOW joined the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Audubon Society, and the Wilderness Society in attacking President Ronald Reagan’s allegedly destructive policies regarding the environment.
- In 1989], DOW joined the National Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and the Izaak Walton League in opposing President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of James Cason to oversee the U.S. Forest Service.
- In October 1998, DOW’s then-president, Rodger Schlickeisen, charged that “extremist” Republicans in Congress were “trying to use President Clinton’s personal problems [e.g. the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal] as a smokescreen for advancing the most anti-environmental agenda ever to come out of the Capitol.”
- In 2000, Schlickeisen said he was “scared to death” over the prospect of George W. Bush winning that year’s presidential election.
- In April 2001, Schlickeisen said that Bush “obviously hates environmental protection.” Two months later, he denounced Bush’s “extreme anti-environmental agenda.”
- In 2001-02, DOW joined with 26 fellow leftist organizations – among which were the Wilderness Society, People For the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, the National Abortion Rights Action League, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Friends Of the Earth, the Feminist Majority, and the Natural Resources Defense Council – in opposing President Bush’s nomination of Judge D. Brooks Smith to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
- In April 2003, Rodger Schlickeisen said he could think of absolutely nothing that the Bush Administration had yet done to protect the environment.
- During the presidential election year of 2004, DOW published at least 14 newsletters critical of the Bush Administration. In the aftermath of George W. Bush’s re-election that November, Schlickeisen affirmed: “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.”
DOW depicts the Endangered Species Act of 1973 – which has dragged many landowners into protracted and costly conflicts and litigation – as “the strongest and most important federal law protecting imperiled wildlife and plants.” “Unrelenting pressure from various commercial industries and ultra-conservative political interests continue to threaten this vital piece of environmental legislation,” laments the organization.
DOW is strongly opposed to industrial-scale drilling for gas and oil in Alaska’s remote ANWR region, where “development could destroy the pristine nature of the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain forever, damaging natural habitats and harming the wildlife that calls the area home.”
One of DOW’s major initiatives today is its Climate Change program, which is rooted in the premise that the “greenhouse gas pollution” caused by carbon dioxoide and other by-products of human industrial activity is responsible for “the warming of the planet.” Asserting, further, that “extreme weather events like heat waves, storms and droughts are on the rise,” the organization contends that “climate change is now one of the leading threats to wildlife and habitats.” To address this matter, DOW “advocat[es] for laws, policies and funding to help combat the threat.”
DOW’s Renewable Energy program works with federal and state agencies across the U.S. to help shape policies that promote the generation of “clean, renewable electricity from sun, wind and geothermal sources” as “one of the best ways to slow down global climate change.”
DOW’s Living With Wildlife program seeks to address the fact that “as people have moved into undeveloped areas and climate change has caused wildlife habitat to [relocate], conflicts with wild animals have also increased, often resulting in the death of the animals.” In response to this problem, the organization aims to help ranchers implement nonlethal measures – such as range-rider patrols and electric fences – to prevent wild animals from attacking their livestock. DOW is also committed to “educating people on how to deal with wildlife encounters.”
Over the years, DOW has received a great deal of funding from philanthropies like the Bauman Family Foundation, the Bullitt Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Barbra Streisand Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The actor and political activist Ed Asner served as a DOW spokesman and board member in the 1990s.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton referred to DOW as his “favorite green outfit.”
For additional information on DOW, click here.