Just a few weeks ago, I stood with my two young sons in the Southern Sierra, gazing at the fortress walls of the Great Western Divide and marveling at how peaceful it seemed compared to 30 years before.
Those decades ago, I had come to this same spot as a newspaper reporter to write about the early struggles of the environmental movement - struggles that saved Mineral King from development, halted clearcutting on the national forest, created the Golden Trout Wilderness, and gave birth to Earthjustice.
A few weeks ago we wrote of a former Earthjustic law clerk, Jamie Saul, who was blackballed out of a job at the Department of Justice because he favored vigorous enforcement of environmental laws. Maybe blackballed is the wrong word—he applied for a job and didn't get it for reasons that were certainly improper and possibly illegal.
The DoJ looked into such hiring practices in the wake over the scandal over the firing of several U.S. attorneys for what sure look like political reasons. Turns out politics infected decisions involving more than U.S. attorneys.
By this time, most everyone has heard about the historic deal in the Florida Everglades: U.S. Sugar will sell the state of Florida 187,000 acres that sit between giant Lake Okeechobee and Everglades National Park.
That's 187,000 acres that will no longer be drenched with poison pesticides and fertilizers. It is industrial farmland that blocks the Everglades' natural water flow—now it can hold and filter water as it moves south toward Florida Bay.
To say we're ecstatic down here is a massive understatement. This is the largest conservation deal in Florida history.
Bill Neukom is a seasoned attorney in a prominent Seattle firm. He served as Microsoft's general counsel and for the past year has been the President of the American Bar Association. His main project at the ABA is engaging leading lawyers, judges, politicians, and others around the world to promote the rule of law. He leads the World Justice Project and has developed the Rule of Law Index, measuring the strength of legal protections and the degree of corruption in the world's legal systems. Strengthening environmental law is one of the goals of this effort.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Judge Clarence Brimmer of the federal district court in Wyoming last week declared illegal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, adopted in the waning hours of the Clinton administration. The judge had blocked the rule five years ago, but a ruling from a federal judge in California two years ago had blocked a substitute rule put forward by the Bush administration and reinstated the Clinton rule.
Brimmer's 100-page ruling heaped scorn on both President Clinton and Judge Elizabeth Laporte, the San Francisco judge who reinstated the Clinton rule.
The legal tussle over the wolves in the Northern Rockies, which took a turn for the better a week or so back, has overshadowed another uplifting wolf story: confirmation of a breeding pack of wolves in northeast Oregon for the first time since the animals were shot, trapped, and poisoned out of the state more than 50 years ago.
Unearthed blog editor, wordsmith, and all around superdad Terry Winckler gave me a hard time this week for being an "elitist" urban bike commuter. We had a good laugh over the use of the word. It got me thinking. What does the term "elitist" really mean these days?