The California Lawyers Association is recognizing retired Earthjustice attorney Michael Sherwood’s lengthy and consequential career by giving him its prestigious Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Field of Environmental Law. The award will be given at the 28th Annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite.
“This is a tremendous and well-deserved honor for Mike,” said Stacey Geis, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s California regional office in San Francisco. “Mike now joins past recipient giants like Mary Nichols, Byron Sher, and Johanna Wald in receiving this prestigious award — which highlights not only Mike’s amazing career but the incredible impact his work has had on protecting precious lands and wildlife.”
Sherwood, who started his legal career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Hawaiʻi, worked with Earthjustice for 39 years, starting in 1974 when Earthjustice was known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.
During his career, he brought groundbreaking lawsuits that resulted in landmark legal decisions strengthening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act and expanding the definition of what constitutes a “take” of an endangered species to include destroying vital habitat. He also sued to clear backlogs of endangered species in Hawaiʻi and California that were awaiting protection.
In California, he helped stop clear-cut logging of old-growth redwoods adjacent to Redwood National Park. Sherwood sued to stop logging, mining, and road construction on sensitive public lands in Alaska, California, and elsewhere. He helped protect salmon and steelhead populations and vast stretches of river habitat that support them in Washington, Oregon, and California.
Sherwood retired in 2013. When looking back on his career, Sherwood discussed the impact of the Redwood National Park case that saved 2,000 year-old trees. “Years later I went back,” he said. “It was incredibly gratifying to see that there was no logging going on and that what had been clear cuts, bare dirt, and stumps, was now green with new redwoods and other undergrowth.”
The lifetime achievement award was established “to recognize environmental lawyers who have contributed to the field of environmental law over a sustained period, achieved excellence in the practice of environmental law, and provided legal services with high ethics and collegiality.”
Sherwood will receive the award at the conference’s Saturday night dinner on October 19. Prior to that, he will take part in a fireside chat with author and historian Tom Turner.