PILP’s summer stipend program made it possible for me to spend the summer working as a law clerk for the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the public lands of eastern Oregon through a balance of hard-hitting legal challenges and collaborative conservation efforts.
ONDA provided me with an experiential learning environment that allowed me to utilize my background in biology and environmental studies while enhancing my knowledge of natural resource law and policy. I worked with ONDA to protect Oregon’s desert from the degradation caused by livestock grazing on public lands by bringing grazing into compliance with the standards mandated by law in order to achieve a healthy ecosystem. Through my projects, I was able to learn the basics of administrative law – often the basis for many environmental claims - while helping me to gain familiarity with important and integral environmental statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), and National Forest Management Act (NFMA). As ONDA has a small legal team, I was able to take part in many aspects of the organization’s legal actions. From writing a strategy memo regarding the ESA to drafting an Equal Access to Justice Act attorney’s fees petition to drafting a reply brief in a CWA case, I was involved in many of the significant steps of the litigation process.
My work at ONDA helped to give me a comprehensive perspective of public interest law, allowed me to contribute substantive work to relevant projects, and provided me access to knowledgeable staff attorneys that offered practical guidance in how to become an effective and capable public interest attorney. None of this would have been possible without the help and dedication of PILP.