With the constant threat of climate change, these organizations are working tirelessly to protect environments in the West and across the world.

Woman hiking outdoors in Olympic National Park
Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

The western United States is home to beautiful vistas, incredible animals, and a magnificent coastline, all of which have been drawing people to the region for centuries. However, much of this is now at risk due to the devastating effects of global climate change.

For as long as these environments—not only in the West but also the the rest of the country, and the world—have been at risk, there have been organizations working to protect them. Through research, litigation, and awareness, these groups have been working to identify dangers and address and prevent them as much as possible.

While many of these organizations operate on a national or even global scale, the effects of their work can be felt right here in the West. The National Resources Defense Council helped pass a bill to prevent approval of any new offshore drilling equipment for use in federal waters off the coast of California in 2018. And a year later, Protect Our Winters helped Colorado enact a law establishing a plan to reduce carbon pollution in the state by 90% by 2050. The Sierra Club Foundation helped the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Nevada replace a coal plant with clean energy and solar farms in 2014.

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The good these organizations do for the West and for the world is undeniable, and they could all use our help. If you’re interested in keeping these groups working for the preservation of our planet, below is a list of nonprofits working in the West today that could use the support.

The Sierra Club Foundation

The Sierra Club Foundation is an independent sponsor of the charitable programs of the Sierra Club. Founded in 1960, the organization creates partnerships and finds financial support for environmental campaigns. It is working to spread clean energy, limit the development of dirty fuels like coal and natural gas, and preserve and protect America’s national parks. The foundation also sponsors outdoor education programs to ensure all generations can enjoy the outdoors and understand the importance of a healthy environment. It also has a prominent legal program that directs legal strategy for campaigns and supports other environmental litigation.

National Resources Defense Council

The National Resources Defense Council uses its network of scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates to “ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.” In the West, the council is working with leaders, businesses, and advocacy groups to combat the climate crisis by spreading clean energy, limiting pollution, and protecting areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In addition to the California drilling bill, the NRDC has made the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach commit to using zero-emissions trucks and cargo-handling equipment by 2035, supported low-carbon fuel programs in Washington, and received a commitment from the state of Nevada to achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2030.

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy works with a team of more than 400 scientists to conserve the lands and waters on which life depends across the U.S. The group partners with companies and local communities alike to work to maintain environments and ensure the survival of all the species. It is currently protecting a half-million acres of land in Montana, and is conducting projects across the Colorado River Delta to rejuvenate the area, which provides drinking water for more than 40 million people, irrigates 5 million acres of farmland, and is currently experiencing a Tier 1 water shortage following lengthy droughts in the western U.S.

Environment Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund works with partners and scientists to find evidence-driven solutions to the environmental issues facing the world, and shapes policy and directs legal action to put those solutions into action. Today, the fund works with farmers to prevent the overuse of fertilizer, which can contaminate drinking water and create aquatic dead zones devoid of oxygen, and is creating a satellite that can pinpoint the sites of the largest amounts of methane emissions, a highly potent greenhouse gas that accounts for a quarter of global warming.

Roots and Shoots

Roots and Shoots is a program of the Jane Goodall Institute that seeks to educate young people on the issues facing our environment and empower them to advocate for change. The organization teaches children about how environmental issues are manifesting in their communities. From there, the kids are encouraged to think of solutions and start projects of their own. These projects can range from helping a neighborhood recycle toxic items and cleaning up lakes, to starting a community garden and restoring habitats for monarch butterflies.

SeaLegacy

SeaLegacy aims to create healthy and abundant oceans for the entire planet. Progress toward this goal is centered on a three-step process: expeditions, campaigns, and solutions. The expeditions bring SeaLegacy teams to specific at-risk areas to document beauty and present issues through photographs. Its campaigns then use what was gathered on these expeditions to spread awareness in each area of focus. Finally, it capitalizes on the support gathered from its campaigns to fund projects that work toward solutions, whether that’s reef restoration off the coast of Cuba or stopping grizzly bear hunting in Alaska.

Protect Our Winters

Protect Our Winters began in 2007 with a professional snowboarder who was concerned about the number of ski resorts closing due to lack of snow. Today, it is a network of outdoors-people and sports enthusiasts working to combat the effects of climate change. The group focuses on utilizing people’s love and enjoyment of the outdoors and encouraging them to work to protect it. Most of its work is conducted through support and advocacy campaigns. Current ones include encouraging people to ask their representatives to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and asking them to support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which will protect 400,000 acres of public land in the state.

Wildland Firefighter Foundation

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation supports injured firefighters and their families, as well as the families of those firefighters killed while stopping wildfires. The organization provides assistance to firefighters’ families and works with organizations and agencies to help prevent deaths in the line of duty. As part of this work, it recently helped pass the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act, which increases firefighter pay, expands their access to physical and mental health care, established a mandatory week of paid leave for firefighters, and initiated many other important changes to increase the wellbeing of wildland firefighters.


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