My affinity for the desert landscape stems from growing up in the southwest. Exploring and enjoying the desert areas surrounding my home, however, did more than spur my appreciation for arid lands. My growing recreational interests also introduced me to the ecological harms associated with decades of poorly managed public lands livestock grazing that has afflicted our drier western states. The more I learned about this federally subsidized degradation, the stronger my interest became in working to halt its continuation.
Receiving a PILP stipend enabled me to spend my summer working for the Oregon Natural Desert Association (“ONDA”). ONDA is a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to protecting, defending, and restoring the health of Oregon’s native deserts. Because of this mission, ONDA is frequently involved in litigation and administrative actions challenging Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management activities with respect to grazing, riparian areas, water quality, and fish and wildlife. Through my work this summer with ONDA I was able to apply the legal skills I have acquired after two years of law school to some of the environmental concerns that interest me most. This experience also allowed me to gain further insight into the scientific and legal issues that often arise in the context of public lands grazing.
ONDA’s staff attorney, Mac Lacy, (a Lewis and Clark alumnus), provided me with a diverse spectrum of projects, representing various stages of litigation. These projects ranged from compiling scientific literature on rare sagebrush birds to support a petition to list those species under the Endangered Species Act, preparing agency comments and an administrative appeal, to drafting a complaint and sections of an opening brief. All these projects greatly enhanced my practical legal skills and understanding of public interest environmental litigation.
PILP made this valuable experience for me, and a small nonprofit such as ONDA possible, while also leaving me with time at the end of the summer to get out to eastern Oregon’s high desert region and enjoy the lands I worked with ONDA to protect.