The David Brower, Kerry Rydberg, and Svitlana Kravchenko Awards

By Emily Johnson

Each year, the students of Land, Air, Water (LAW) recognize outstanding environmental activists at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference through the David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kerry Rydberg Award for Environmental Activism, and the Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award.

The David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an attorney or activist who has dedicated his or her life to environmental activism and exemplifies the values of David Brower, perhaps the most important environmentalist of the second half of the 20th century. Brower was executive director of the Sierra Club and founder of many of today’s best-known environmental organizations and institutes.

This year’s David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the staff of Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW); Mark Chernaik, JD ’93, Jennifer Gleason, JD ’93, Bern Johnson, Lori Maddox, Graciela M. Mercedes “Meche” Lu, and Liz Mitchell, JD ’94. ELAW was founded in 1989 by a group of public interest lawyers from 10 countries attending the University of Oregon Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. Upon meeting, the group discovered that communities in their countries were facing similar environmental challenges, and that if public interest lawyers around the world could share strategies and legal and scientific information, those lawyers could promote environmental protection more effectively. With this serendipitous meeting, ELAW was born.

Twenty-five years later, more than 300 public interest advocates from 70 countries participate in the ELAW network. Staff members collaborate with local advocates around the world by sharing legal strategies and scientific information, helping them launch their own public interest organizations, protecting those who they face legal or other consequences for their advocacy, and convening workshops in their communities to educate citizens about the legal and scientific tools available to challenge environmental abuses and defend their right to clean air, water, food, and a sustainable economy.

In addition, ELAW has played an irreplaceable role in the professional formation of dozens of law students from the University of Oregon School of Law. Through their work with students, ELAW has proven itself to be an irrefutable force in both fighting the environmental injustices of today and preparing the next generation of environmental lawyers and advocates to fight the injustices of tomorrow.

The Kerry Rydberg Award for Environmental Activism is presented annually to an advocate who embodies 1987 Oregon alum Kerry Rydberg’s courage, self-reliance, commitment, talent, and dedication to representing citizens at the grassroots level of environmental matters.

This year, the Kerry Rydberg Award was presented to Roger Flynn, founding director and managing attorney of the Western Mining Action Project (WMAP), a nonprofit law center representing public interests on mining issues in the West since 1993. Flynn is the epitome of the public interest environmental attorney. He has spent his career taking on the fights of financially limited clients against large mining corporations . . . and winning. He is “a hero to communities who often face long odds when going up against the high-priced lawyers and consultants used by the [mining] industry,” said a former client of his in the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph.

Prior to founding the Western Mining Action Project, Flynn was a staff attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies. In addition to his work at WMAP, Flynn also teaches natural resources law and mining and mineral development law at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Law.

The Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award is presented to individuals who carry on in the spirit of Kravchenko with exquisite qualities of both head and heart; mixing academic rigor with spirited activism; and speaking truth to power while exhibiting kindness to all. The award also seeks to recognize those who make a broad impact in law while working to support local communities.

This year, the Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award was awarded to long-time environmental law professor, attorney, and author Professor William Rodgers. Rodgers has spent nearly half a century teaching an array of public interest environmental law courses to students at the University of Washington School of Law and Georgetown University Law School. He is the author of multitudes of articles, chapters, treatises, and books and has argued numerous cases on an array of environmental and tribal matters before every level of federal and state court. He was a key player in a number of high-profile environmental efforts, including the federal ban on the insecticide DDT, the Washington “Bottle Bill,” and the “Fish Wars” of the late 1960s. Throughout his career, whether in the classroom or the courtroom, Rodgers has insistently encouraged students to participate in his work, crafting what today must constitute a full army of expertly primed environmental attorneys and advocates.