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Giving the Earth’s Species a Fighting Chance

To stop the biodiversity crisis, we must protect public lands and waters that wildlife depend on.

As another Earth Day approaches, the world faces a climate and biodiversity crisis. Scientists predict that between one third and one half of all species could be extinct by the end of this century. Their disappearance, which could upend ecosystems and destabilize human civilization, puts us all in danger.

The situation is dire. But many of the threats to imperiled species — from mining to logging to fossil fuel development — take place on public lands and waters. In the U.S., we have powerful legal tools to ensure that these public places, which belong to all of us, remain intact and hospitable to life, not polluted and destroyed by extractive industries.

Earthjustice uses legal tools like environmental laws and pollution regulations to keep entire ecosystems — and the species that depend upon them — healthy and intact. Here are just a few of our cases and ways you can join our fight.

Earth Day and Every Day Quiz
Why is the greater sage-grouse population only a fraction of its former size?
oil and gas drilling
cattle overgrazing
wildfires
all of the above
Once numbering in the millions, the greater sage-grouse blocked out the sun and darkened the skies when they took flight. These birds depend on the specific conditions provided by the sagebrush grasslands that cover the American West. Human disturbances to this ecosystem have greatly diminished the sage-grouse population. To enable this species to survive, habitat was set aside on public lands according to the 2015 greater sage-grouse conservation plans.

The Fossil Fuel Fight

Many public lands targeted by fossil fuel drilling are rich in biodiversity. The American West, for example, contains over 150 million acres of sagebrush habitat that provides shelter for animals such as the greater sage-grouse, pronghorn antelope, and pygmy rabbits. In 2020, a federal court invalidated the Trump administration’s attempt to increase oil and gas drilling in the West’s “sagebrush sea,” bringing more than 330,000 acres under protection. Earthjustice represented a diverse coalition of conservationists and sportsmen who came together to protect the sage-grouse and its habitat.

Other highlights of our fight against fossil fuels:

Protect our public lands and waters from fossil fuels

Earth Day and Every Day Quiz
What temperature water do manatees prefer?
very hot
warm
cold
freezing
Manatees have relatively low body fat when compared to other aquatic mammals so they cannot tolerate cold water for long. Each winter, manatees gather in the warm waters of the Indian River Lagoon in Florida to feed on seagrass, their main food source. Traveling elsewhere to find food would mean risking deadly exposure to cold water. In 2021, over half of the manatee deaths in Florida were attributed to starvation. The number of deaths is more than double the average annual death rate over five years.

Big Ag Pollution

Industrial agriculture is a major polluter, imperiling wildlife by dumping untold amounts of toxic pesticides and fertilizers into the ground. The Florida manatee, for example, is threatened because manure, sewage and fertilizer runoff spark deadly algae outbreaks that shade out the seagrasses that the sea cows eat. Earthjustice has put the Environmental Protection Agency on notice that we will sue if the agency does not address the water quality problems that are killing manatees.

Other highlights of our fight against Big Ag:

Demand a National Biodiversity Strategy

Earth Day and Every Day Quiz
How do bears help combat climate change? They …
prefer to carpool
go meatless on Mondays
compost their food scraps
have switched to LED light bulbs
When salmon return to their natal streams to spawn, bears feast. Bears carry salmon from the rivers and bring the freshwater resources provided by the salmon carcasses to the terrestrial environment. As the salmon remains slowly decay, they feed the soil providing nutrients in concentrations greater than that of commercial fertilizers. This sustained supply of nourishment allows the nearby trees to grow faster, contributing to the 35 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that is naturally sequestered from the atmosphere each year by our national forests.

Industrial Logging

Forests are a source of food and habitat for countless threatened species. They also serve as the “lungs of the earth” by sequestering carbon and cleaning the air. That's why Earthjustice, in partnership with an ever-growing coalition, is calling on the Biden administration to make protection of these unique forests a central pillar of its national climate strategy. In Alaska, we’re closer than ever to stopping large-scale old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass’ trees sustain an endless variety of wildlife, including salmon that travel the streams that run throughout the Tongass and provide a hearty meal for grizzlies, bald eagles, black bears, and other creatures.

Other highlights of our fight against industrial logging:

Restore the Endangered Species Act

Earth Day and Every Day Quiz
Which is the only contiguous U.S. state to have always held a viable wolf population?
gray wolf
Idaho
Washington
Wisconsin
Minnesota
In 1973, gray wolves became one of the first animals to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Before that, hunters killed most of the wolves in the continental U.S., wiping them out from every state in the lower 48 except Minnesota in areas that would later become the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and the few isolated in Isle Royale in Michigan. Federal protections allowed the remaining wolf population in Minnesota to grow and expand, eventually returning wolves to other states.

Mineral Mining

Mining for gold, copper, and other precious metals can scar the earth, contaminate the environment that species depend on, and harm Indigenous communities. Earthjustice is fighting reckless mining projects around the country and pushing for total bans on mining in critical areas like immediately next to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There, the surrounding Superior National Forest holds 20% of the freshwater in the entire national forest system and provides habitat for imperiled species such as lynx, moose, and wolves.

Other highlights of our fight to stop harmful mining:

We need stronger protections from mining

Earth Day and Every Day Quiz
Where do orcas sit on the food chain? They are …
primary producers
primary consumers
apex predators
decomposers
Orcas are apex predators, which means they are on the top of the food chain. They are carnivores that eat a varied diet, ranging from small forage fish like anchovies to much larger animals. Orcas require a lot of food and rely heavily on calorie-dense foods like salmon. When salmon populations decline — because of river dams, habitat loss, and more — orcas also suffer. Anchovies are critical food for larger fish like salmon as well as orcas and other ocean wildlife. When fish lower on the food chain, such as anchovies, are overfished, animals higher in the food chain, such as orcas, are also affected.

Overfishing

Our oceans, rivers, and streams once teemed with creatures as big as the blue whale and as small as a minnow. But decades of overfishing have stripped our waterways of life. On the West Coast, Earthjustice is pushing federal regulators to enact responsible, science-based management of northern anchovy — a critical food source for dozens of ocean animals, including whales, sea lions, brown pelicans, and salmon.

Other highlights of our fight to stop overfishing:

We need stronger protections for North Atlantic right whales

Earth Day and Every Day Quiz
What is the best way to give Earth’s species a fighting chance?
restore and strengthen the Endangered Species Act
stop leasing on public lands and waters
stop overfishing
all of the above
Here are ways you can get involved to help stop the biodiversity crisis:
  • Your voice is needed on these issues. Learn how to take action — and why it matters.
  • Stay up to date on our lawsuits and victories, including alerts, monthly curated stories, and more. And receive our text alerts to hear about big news as it happens.
  • We use the power of the law to protect our communities, our climate, and the natural world we value so deeply. Make a tax-deductible gift today and help us take on the fights ahead!