June 01, 2012

Kya Marienfield

Advocates for the West, Boise, ID

Thanks to PILP, I spent the summer in Boise, Idaho working for Advocates for the West, a small but amazingly active nonprofit environmental law firm. From May until August, I worked with Advocates’ staff of outstanding and dedicated attorneys on environmental cases brought on behalf of the air, lands, water, wildlife, and natural beauty of the West’s Great Basin and Intermountain regions. Within these areas, Advocates places a special emphasis on protecting the high desert- a fragile and absolutely beautiful ecosystem that is dwindling more and more each year

My main project at Advocates was working on a lawsuit to challenge the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the pygmy rabbit under the protections of the Endangered Species Act. The pygmy rabbit, a very small sagebrush-obligate species, is rare and difficult to find. However, it is one of the most adorable creatures currently in existence, and a critical indicator of the health of the high desert ecosystem. For this suit, I did legal research, poured over the Administrative Record, familiarized myself with the statute and past case history (Advocates had challenged an earlier FWS decision on the pygmy rabbit and won), and helped write a summary judgment brief and a separate statement of facts. 

When I wasn’t working on the pygmy rabbit case, I got to do more research and writing tasks to help other attorneys in the office, who were working on cases that included halting a wind transmission line in a protected area in eastern Oregon, getting the BLM and Forest Service to take a closer look at grazing permits on fragile public lands, and stopping the transport of industrial megaloads on Idaho’s Wild & Scenic Highway 12 Corridor. 

In addition to my work in the office, the staff at Advocates encouraged me to get out as much as possible, and I went on several field trips to project sites and was lucky enough to witness three of the firm’s oral arguments over the course of the summer- two in the District of Idaho and one in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience- thank you PILP!