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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

Below is a brief review of some of our program’s major milestones over the past 40 years, with special focus on the program’s recent innovations. 

The 1970’s: A Law Review, A Class, and NEDC

The official launch of the environmental law program in 1970 reflected the growing national awareness of environmental issues.  Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring had focused worldwide attention on pesticide use and set the stage for the national environmental movement. A legislative revolution was also underway.  From the mid 1960s through the 1970s, Congress enacted a series of significant federal environmental laws, including the Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.  In April of 1970, hundreds of people attended the first “Earth Day.”  

The program’s start at the law school coincided with these national developments.  In 1969, Dean Hal Wren asked new faculty member Bill Williamson to develop a proposal for a law review.  Observing the fast growing developments in environmental law, Williamson proposed, and the faculty approved,  a topical law review focusing on environmental issues.  Environmental Law made its publication debut in 1970 as the nation’s first legal journal specializing in this area.  In the fall of 1971, Professor Williamson began teaching the law school’s first course on environmental law using materials he pulled together on his own given the dearth of published materials or law books on the topic.

Williamson was also instrumental in initiating a third environmental initiative that helped to shape the environmental program.  While sitting in a local café, Williamson and Portland attorney Charles Merten noticed the smog obscuring their view of Mount Hood.  They challenged each other to do something about the problem and created the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) in 1969 as a private non-profit advocacy organization.  Housed at the Law School since 1969, NEDC provides opportunities for law students to work on real environmental cases with  local practicing attorneys.   Because law students volunteer to work on NEDC’s cases, even first year law students can participate.   

Throughout the 1970s, student interest in environmental law grew rapidly as did the nation’s. The Law School decided that it needed more than Environmental Law and a single environmental course to keep up with the demand.  As Professor Williamson recalls, the faculty determined that “since lawyers are leaders in our society, the Law School had a responsibility to equip its students with the skills they need to deal with the many emerging environmental problems.”

In response, the Law School added additional environmental courses and faculty who could teach them. Professor (and later Dean) James Huffman joined the faculty in 1973 and began teaching a natural resources class.  In 1974, Huffman, along with third-year student Jeff Foote, founded the Natural Resources Law Institute (NRLI) at the Law School to encourage and support  natural resources scholarship by faculty and visitors. NRLI obtained a series of grants to support visiting research fellows who, along with their research, taught courses such as Water Law and Ocean Law.

By 1976, the Law School was offering several environmental courses, including Environmental Law I and II, Natural Resources Law, Natural Resources Workshop, Ocean Law, and Water Law.  The Law School continued to add environmental faculty and courses through the late 1970s and 1980s.  Professors Don Large and Mike Blumm joined the faculty in 1977 and 1979, respectively, and added their considerable environmental backgrounds to the curriculum.  Local environmental practitioners were hired to teach additional courses in their areas of expertise.

Shortly after his arrival, Professor Blumm was instrumental in implementing an environmental externship program to allow students to earn academic credit for a semester or summer of volunteer work with a public interest organization, government agency, or law firm.  This program allows students to work under the supervision of a practicing environmental or natural resources attorney in his or her office.  Lewis & Clark students have externed in the headquarters and regional offices of virtually every major national and regional environmental agency and organization.  They have also worked with Congress, Indian tribes, and in international locations such as Australia, Latvia, and Tanzania.

The 1980’s

During the 1980s, the Law School expanded the curriculum to include seminars on forest policy, conservation and environmental policy and courses such as Regulated Industries, Energy Law, Environmental Litigation, Oil and Gas Law, Pollution Control Law, Mining and Mineral Leasing, and Pacific Salmon Law.  Professor Susan Mandiberg joined the faculty in 1980, lending her expertise in criminal law and environmental crimes.

Lewis & Clark also added several important components to the program during this time period: the Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law issued to qualified J.D. students (by then, the curriculum had blossomed into a full array of environmental and natural resources classes); Bill Funk to the faculty to teach important core courses such as Environmental Law and Administrative Law;  and a LL.M. degree in environmental and natural resources law that continues to attract highly qualified lawyers and law graduates from around the country and world.  In 1988, Dan Rohlf arrived on the campus as a Natural Resources Law Institute Fellow to research and write on endangered species issues.   He stayed on to teach classes in Wildlife Law and Law, Science and the Environment and developed the “environmental practicum” as an opportunity for students to work with him on actual cases involving endangered species and salmon issues.  The practicum was so successful that in 1996, the faculty approved the creation of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (PEAC) as a full-fledged environmental litigation clinic with Rohlf as clinic director and professor.

The 1990’s

In the 1990’s, Craig Johnston and Janet Neuman joined the faculty adding expertise in pollution control law and water law, respectively, and Chris Wold ”˜90 was hired to teach International Environmental Law and Trade and the Environment. Wold also added an international component to the environmental practicum, which later grew into the International Environmental Law Project (IELP), the only on-campus clinic in the country in which students can work directly on real-life international environmental issues.   

Janice Weis was hired to serve as the director (now associate dean) of the program in 1994. 

Recent Innovations

One of the hallmarks of the environmental program at Lewis & Clark is a continued sense of innovation and growth. While there are now dozens of environmental law programs across the country, our program continues to be a leader in the field due to the vision and dedication of the environmental faculty and staff and a large group of successful alumni who are making tremendous contributions to the field across the country and around the world.  We continue to seek out the best ways of educating future environmental lawyers.

Below are some of the important recent innovations of the program.  

Faculty & Staff

In 2000, the program created an assistant director position for the program and hired Lin Harmon ’91. Lin is now the associate director for the program and the director of the international aspects of the program, including international LL.M.s and visitors.

In 2001, NEDC created its first full-time staff position and hired Mark Riskedahl ”˜00 to serve as Executive Director. Riskedahl oversees NEDC’s cases and funding and is the key liaison between the students and the supervising attorneys.  Says Riskedahl, “It is truly an honor to be involved with an organization that has seen such a wide-ranging array of gifted attorneys and student volunteers dedicated to public interest environmental law over the past forty years.  No other law school campus in the country has an organization quite like NEDC.”

PEAC’s docket now includes cases on climate change and coal power, endangered species, clean water, and a myriad of other natural resources and regulatory cases.  The staff has grown to include the expertise of four staff attorneys who also serve as clinical faculty: Tom Buchele (Managing Attorney),  Allison LaPlante ”˜02, Aubrey Baldwin ’05, and Dan Mensher ’07.   PEAC also created an Executive Director position and hired Karen Smith Geon in 2010 to fill that role. 

In 2005, IELP added Erica Thorson ’05 to its staff to expand its international cases and services to students.

In the fall of 2009, the program added its newest faculty member, Melissa Powers ’01.   Melissa had previously served as a staff attorney and clinical faculty member for PEAC.  Melissa has added important classes to the curriculum including  Energy Law and Climate Change. 

Joint J.D./LL.M. Degree

In 2008, the Law School began offering a joint J.D./LL.M. degree in environmental law – the only such joint degree in the environmental area in the country.  The joint degree allows Lewis & Clark J.D. students to obtain both the J.D. and the LL.M. degree in three and a half years, less time than it would take to obtain the degrees separately.

Animal Law

In 2008, the Law School was the fortunate recipient of a generous grant from the national non-profit, the Animal Legal Defense Fund.  This funding made possible  a significant expansion of the animal law component of the environmental program now entitled The Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The law school was able to hire Pamela Frasch as the Center’s director (recently promoted to assistant dean), Kathy Hessler as the director of the Animal Law Clinic, and Laura Handzel as assistant director.  

Moot Court

The Environmental Moot Court experience continues to play a large role in the environmental program.  The Law School sends a talented team of three students to the national environmental moot court competition each year hosted by Pace University.  The three students are chosen after rigorous internal competition at the Law School in the fall.  Lewis & Clark’s team won the national competition in 2010 making this the seventh time a Lewis & Clark team has won the competition, more than any other law school.  Lewis & Clark students have won the competition for the last three years in a row.  The 2010 winning team consisted of Lizzy Zultoski (also a member of the 2009 winning team), Ben Luckett and John Krallman.  The team was coached by Professor Craig Johnston.

In addition to the Moot Court, Lewis & Clark students now also participate in the annual Robert R. Merhige National Environmental Negotiation Competition which recognizes skills in negotiating effective solutions to an environmental conflict. 


We now offer over 45 classes, seminars, and practical skills training opportunities in the environmental and natural resources law curriculum.  Several of these classes have been added to the curriculum in the past five years to reflect emerging interest in areas such as climate change, energy law, and sustainability issues.

Taking Law Students Outdoors 

In addition to our regular year offerings, we offer several additional environmental classes each summer.  One of the most interesting innovations of the summer program is the “field class”concept,added to the summer program several years ago.  The field classes offer experiential learning to law students and others by taking them outdoors into the ecosystem they are studying.

The program currently offers two alternating summer field classes. The terrestrial field class, Legal Ecology: Ecosystem Function and the Law, meets in southeastern Oregon near the Malheur Wildlife Refuge with students and faculty living in dorms on site for a week.  Professor Dan Rohlf teaches the class with Dr. David Dobkin, an ecologist with the High Desert Ecological Research Institute. The pair provides students with an introduction to ecosystem function and the legal regimes that govern ecosystems and their components by conducting the classes mostly outdoors. Students gather each morning in a meadow, along a stream, under a canopy of trees, or in the high desert as antelopes wander in the distance. Professor Rohlf observes that the”best way to learn about environmental law is to get out in the environment;” a lecture on wildlife refuges while watching sandhill cranes makes a far bigger impression on students than reading about them in a casebook.

A recent addition to our summer offerings is the Urban Ecology field class, also taught by Professor Rohlf with Bob Salinger, a Law School graduate and biologist who serves as the conservation director of Portland Audubon.  Alternating classroom sessions with local field trips around the Portland area, this course provides an introduction to basic urban ecosystem function and the legal regimes that govern urban ecosystems and their components. Topics include the intersection between science and law in formulating and implementing urban natural resources policy and ecosystem management; examples of local, state, and national legal regimes governing biodiversity conservation and management in urban areas; issues surrounding real and perceived conflicts between humans and wildlife; and the variety of regulatory and non-regulatory means to protect biodiversity in urban environments.


The Natural Resources Law Institute continues to serve as a focus for environmental scholarship at the Law School.  NRLI continues to host many of its hallmark activities, including the annual Distinguished Visitor and annual Distinguished Environmental Law Scholar.  NRLI has also coordinated and sponsored more than 20 educational programs dealing with natural resources law, including the national conferences discussed below and a program offered several times a year that educates Forest Service employees and other agency specialists on the Endangered Species Act.   NRLI, in cooperation with the Federal Judicial Center, continues to teach a week long annual course on environmental law for federal judges. 

NRLI now publishes an annual report that outlines the activities and accomplishments of the environmental program and is planning to turn its long-produced newsletter, NRLI News, into an on-line newsletter.

NRLI is also in the process of creating several projects in the climate change area that would encompass and support the work relating to climate change through PEAC and IELP and enhance our curriculum.

National Conferences

In 2002, the environmental program started presenting an annual environmental conference with a theme of national importance and interest.  In that year, Professor Craig Johnston organized a conference to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  Other conference topics have included the Endangered Species Act, Ocean/Wave Energy, Rule of Capture, and most recently, in 2009 and 2010, the conferences have focused on climate change issues.  The 2010 conference, “The Clean Air Act at a Crossroads:  Turning 40 and Confronting Climate Change” was also an opportunity to celebrate the program’s 40th anniversary.

For more information about the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, please contact  Janice Weis, Lin Harmon, or Linda D’Agostino-Long at (503) 768-6784 or e-mail us at