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June 01, 2008

Ryan Couch

Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Portland, OR

Thanks to PILP, I spent a rewarding summer working with Friends of the Columbia Gorge (“Friends”). Friends is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreation resources of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Friends regularly pursues strategic litigation as part of its comprehensive approach to protecting the Gorge.

Working under the guidance of Friends’ staff attorney and land use law clerk—both Lewis & Clark alums—my summer was filled with exciting opportunities to gain practical experience while helping to protect Gorge resources. I contributed research and writing to summary judgment memoranda for a case in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, and even had the chance to work on a brief on the merits submitted to the Oregon Supreme Court. Through PILP and Friends, I was able to work on cases involving claims under the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, and other laws. The majority of my time was spent on litigation challenging alterations to the Management Plan for the National Scenic Area that weakened the degree of resource protection provided under the Plan.

In addition to working on documents submitted to federal and state courts, I also reviewed and commented on applications for land uses and development within the National Scenic Area, attended Gorge Commission meetings, and sat in on strategic discussions regarding potential litigation under the Clean Air Act. Friends provided a professional and collegial work environment that made the transition from the classroom as smooth as possible. Working at Friends included staff outings to the Gorge and regular staff meetings that allowed me to learn more about what it takes to run a successful public interest organization.

In short, my time with Friends was invaluable. I highly encourage anyone considering a career in public interest law to volunteer for PILP and apply for a stipend.