What began as a small clinic at the University of Oregon School of Law in the 1970s is now a thriving, pioneering nonprofit environmental law firm with offices across the West whose attorneys collaborate at local, regional, and national levels to successfully defend and protect western wildlands, waters, and wildlife. Under the guidance of the Western Environmental Law Center’s seasoned environmental attorneys, students enrolled in the University of Oregon School of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic continue to provide invaluable legal and scientific research and analysis to help WELC achieve its vision.
This past year, with the help of dedicated and hard-working students, WELC won several important victories and initiated significant new projects.
At the local level, we successfully protected clean water for family farmers in Colorado’s fertile North Fork Valley by defeating fossil fuel industry efforts to frack and drill on tens of thousands of acres of cherished public lands. At the state level in New Mexico, we helped hold Big Coal accountable for harming our health, climate, and environment by securing coal-fired power plant retirements and by speeding our transition to clean, renewable energy from the wind and sun. And at the national level, we rallied 90 conservation groups demanding federal action to stop disastrous greenhouse-gas pollution leaking from oil and gas drilling operations.
We also successfully advocated for the protection of wildlife threatened with extinction across the West. We are leading a coalition to ensure that the rare wolverine receives essential Endangered Species Act protections and, for the second year in a row, we shut down the recreational wolverine-trapping season in Montana — giving this nearly extinct species a chance to survive. Continuing our storied legacy of ancient forest and river protection in the Northwest and California, we defeated ill-advised timber sales and advanced wild salmon restoration efforts.
Our success protecting and defending the West in the face of chronic political dysfunction demonstrates the value of well-trained, effective environmental advocates. As such, we are eternally grateful for the dedicated assistance of University of Oregon Environmental Law Clinic students, with whom we share our victories.
Hillary Johnson is the director of communications for WELC.