Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 9, 2022


Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613,

New Report Outlines Blueprint for Rewilding American West

Proposal Would Restore Wolves, Beavers to Federal Lands in Western States

SAN FRANCISCO— A first-of-its-kind analysis by 20 leading scientists has identified a network of 11 federally owned reserves where wolves and beavers could be restored across the western United States. Restoring these keystone species could also improve degraded habitat relied on by 92 threatened and endangered species, including the Gunnison sage-grouse and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

The report, called Rewilding the American West, shows that gray wolves and North American beavers provide invaluable benefits to the ecosystem, including drought relief and stream restoration. It describes how restoring these two species, and ending livestock grazing on federal public lands, would have wide-ranging benefits for degraded ecosystems there.

The report also comes as the Biden administration pursues its “America the Beautiful Plan,” which aims to conserve 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030.

“We’re deeply inspired by this compelling report advocating for the rewilding of the West,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know from our own prior analysis that there are at least 530,000 square miles of suitable wolf habitat in the U.S. but only about a third of it has any wolves. This new report supports our findings and goes even further, advising how countless other threatened and endangered species would benefit from restoring both wolves and beavers to these landscapes.”

Even though livestock grazing on public lands is pervasive in the western U.S., only 2% of national meat production comes from all federal lands where livestock grazing is allowed. Grazing harms streams and wetlands, changes fire regimes, inhibits the growth of woody species that many wildlife use for food, and threatens an already warming planet in the form of greenhouse gas emissions. The report states that mining, logging, and oil and gas drilling also threaten the survival of many species on public lands.

The report analyzed large areas of potential gray wolf habitat on federal lands in Western states and identified potential wildlife pathways between them to create a Western Rewilding Network. The report then inventoried those threatened and endangered plant and animal species with at least 10% of their ranges within the identified network. It showed that 92 threatened and endangered species across nine taxonomic groups — including fish, birds, insects, flowering plants and more — reside in the network area.

These species would benefit greatly from ending livestock grazing, recovering gray wolves and reintroducing beavers to suitable habitat within the network. Having wolves back on the landscape would assist in natural control of native ungulates like elk and deer, which are overabundant. Reducing native ungulate numbers could help restore the vegetation that other native species need to thrive. Similarly, having beavers back would restore the ecological functioning of riparian areas along creeks and rivers, which provide habitat for up to 70% of wildlife species.

“We’re at a crossroads that demands bold action to save life on Earth,” said Weiss, “And that means setting aside vast swaths of land and restoring the natural processes and native species that kept those places vibrant and healthy for eons.”

To learn more about steps urgently needed to stop the extinction crisis, read the Center’s 2020 report, Saving Life on Earth, which proposes, along with other key steps, setting aside 30% of the land by 2030, and 50% by 2050.

Gray wolf, Canis lupus. Credit: Tracy Brooks/USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations