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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

A 35-Year Perspective

This article by Assistant Dean and Program Director Janice Weis appeared in the 2005 Lewis & Clark Advocate commemorating the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program’s 35th anniversary.

It almost feels like yesterday when I drafted an article for the Advocate in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the environmental law program ten years ago. At that time, I was new to the Law School and as I researched the program’s history, I gained a deep respect for all who contributed to the success of the program over the years. Now, ten years later, I am once again reminded of how far the program has come and how many people have contributed to its continued success. From a single course offering on environmental regulation and the publication of the inaugural issue of Environmental Law in 1970, the Law School’s program has grown into the preeminent environmental law program in the country, currently recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the best in the nation.

I hope you enjoy the brief review below of some of the program’s major milestones over the past 35 years, with special focus on the program’s innovations since we celebrated our 25th anniversary ten years ago.

35 Years of Milestones

At the Start: a Law Review, a Class, and NEDC

The 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.”

Meanwhile, at the Law School in 1969, Dean Hal Wren assigned to newly-arrived Professor Bill Williamson the task of starting a law review. Observing that environmental law was becoming a significant area of interest, Williamson decided upon a topical law review focusing on environmental issues. The Law School faculty approved the creation of Environmental Law, the nation’s first legal journal specializing in this area. First published in the spring of 1970, Environmental Law was a catalyst for development of the Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. In the fall of 1971, Professor Williamson began teaching the Law School’s first course on environmental law. Few environmental law casebooks were available at that time, so Williamson pulled together his own materials and mimeographed them for students.

Around the same time, 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. Housed at the Law School, NEDC became a private, nonprofit advocacy organization through which law students could work with consulting attorneys on real environmental cases.

Since its inception, NEDC has become a major player in regional environmental issues with an impressive track record of success. It remains a key component of the Law School’s environmental program, providing law students the opportunity to work in a variety of subject areas, including clean water, public lands, clean air, and wildlife law. Because law students volunteer to work on NEDC’s cases, even first year law students can participate in NEDC with assistance from supervising attorneys and upper division students.

In 2001, NEDC created its first executive director position and hired Mark Riskedahl ‘00. 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 thirty-five years. No other law school campus in the country has an organization quite like NEDC.”

The Program Grows

Throughout the 1970s, student interest in environmental law grew rapidly. 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 (later Dean and now Erskine Wood Sr. Professor) 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, still in place, allows students to work under the supervision of a practicing environmental or natural resources attorney in his or her office. A faculty advisor evaluates the extern’s progress, visits the extern’s workplace, and reviews selected work products. Lewis & Clark students have externed in the headquarters and regional offices of virtually every major environmental agency and organization. They have also worked with Congress, Indian tribes, and in international locations such as Australia, Latvia, and Tanzania.

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 eventually developing a course on environmental crimes.

In recognition of the unique training available to its students, the Law School began awarding a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law to qualified JD students in 1981. The Certificate is presented at graduation, along with the JD degree, and recognizes successful concentration in the environmental and natural resources curriculum. About 6% of graduating students received the Certificate when it was first offered; today approximately 25-30% of the graduating class receive it.

In 1983, Bill Funk joined the faculty to teach the important foundational courses, “Environmental Law” and “Administrative Law.” Craig Johnston and Janet Neuman joined the faculty in the early 90s, adding expertise in pollution control law and water law, respectively.

The Law School began to offer an LL.M.. (Masters) in Environmental and Natural Resources Law in 1988. The LL.M. program attracts students from across the country and around the world who want to spend a year studying environmental law. Our LL.M. alums are working around the world in a variety of environmental and natural resources jobs.

In 1988, Dan Rohlf arrived on the campus as an NRLI 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 director. PEAC’s exciting expansion is discussed further below.

In recognition of the emerging field of international environmental law, in 1994, the Law School hired Chris Wold ‘91 to teach classes on “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), also discussed below.

The Environmental Moot Court 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 hosted each year by Pace University. The three students are chosen after rigorous internal competition at the Law School in the fall. Lewis & Clark’s team has won the national competition four times, more than any other law school.

Innovations Since our 25th Anniversary

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 involved and supportive alumni. We continue to seek out the best ways of educating future lawyers.

Below are some of the important innovations of the program since our 25th anniversary ten years ago.


We now offer over 40 classes, seminars, and practical skills training opportunities in the environmental and natural resources law curriculum. Over ten of these classes have been added to the curriculum in the past ten years to reflect emerging interest in areas such as environmental justice, environmental mediation, and animal law.

On-Campus Environmental Clinics: PEAC and IELP

In 1996, the faculty approved the expansion of the “environmental practicum” into the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (PEAC), the Law School’s U.S. litigation clinic. Directed by Professor Dan Rohlf, PEAC allows law students to earn academic credit by working on complex environmental and natural resources cases. PEAC’s docket now includes cases on endangered species, forest law, clean water, and a myriad of other natural resources and regulatory cases. The staff has grown to include the expertise of four additional attorneys: Stephanie Parent ‘92 (who is also PEAC’s managing attorney), Susan Jane Brown ‘00, Melissa Powers ‘01, and Allison LaPlante ‘02.

Shortly after approving PEAC, the faculty approved the International Environmental Law Project (IELP), another outgrowth of the original “environmental practicum.” Directed by Associate Professor Chris Wold, IELP is the Law School’s international environmental law clinic. Like PEAC, IELP provides an opportunity for law students to work on real cases. Students participate in all aspects of IELP’s work to address pressing global environmental issues and communicate directly with environmental organizations, governments, and international institutions to develop proposals to submit at international meetings. Students have accompanied Wold to Chile and Thailand to participate in meetings regarding the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Others have traveled to Japan and the United Kingdom for meetings of the International Whaling Commission.

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, both team-taught by a Law School professor and a scientist. The terrestrial field class, “Legal Ecology: Ecosystem Function and the Law,” meets in southeastern Oregon near the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Professor Dan Rohlf teaches the class with Dr. David Dobkin, an ecologist with the High Desert Ecological Research Institute. The pair provide 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.”

The marine field class, “Coastal Law and Ecology,” provides an introduction to marine ecosystems and the legal regimes that govern them. Topics include coastal management, marine mammal protection, and fisheries management. Team-taught by Associate Professor Chris Wold and ecologist Dr. Deborah Brosnan of the Sustainable Ecosystems Institute, the class takes students out on the beach and on the ocean while discussing marine issues. Based last year at Scripps in San Diego, students literally got their feet wet as they snorkeled in the ocean to understand the challenges biologists face in collecting data in the marine environment. Wold agrees that field classes add something unique to a legal education and notes: “There is no substitute for personally viewing the resources you are studying. The field class allows students to more fully appreciate the legal and scientific factors that contribute to ocean and coastal policy. For example, seeing a group of sea lions on the beach near a large urban area provides a clear sense of the successes and challenges of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.”

Expansion of NRLI

The Natural Resources Law Institute continues to serve as a focus for environmental scholarship at the Law School. NRLI hosts many of the activities discussed on the following pages, 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, has presented several courses on environmental law for federal judges and developed a special seminar for Brazilian judges as well.

NRLI is the process of expanding its focus to become a regionally-recognized source of non-partisan legal and policy research and education on a range of important natural resources issues. It will collaborate with the newly formed Kitzhaber Center, discussed below, on some of its projects. Professor Janet Neuman and Program Director Janice Weis are co-directors of NRLI and are spearheading this exciting new chapter for the environmental program.

Governor Kitzhaber’s New Center

In 2004, Dr. John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s Governor from 1995-2003, created the Kitzhaber Center at the Law School. The Center is designed to explore, develop, and disseminate new tools and governance structures to supplement or replace some of the inadequate natural resources policy-making and problem-solving structures that exist today. Drawing upon the Governor’s background in policy, politics, and science, the Center will identify and develop innovative approaches to resolving regional conflicts while enhancing environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Law students have already benefitted from the Governor’s presence on campus. He participated as a guest lecturer in several environmental classes during the 2004-05 year and, in April of 2005, hosted the first of several roundtable discussions at the Law School that invited law students and experts to address the issue of seeking “good science” for natural resource decision-making. The Center will also collaborate with the Law School’s Natural Resources Law Institute on a variety of projects.

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. Law professors from around the country, including Michael Blumm and Susan Mandiberg from Lewis & Clark, William Rodgers from University of Washington, Robert Adler from the University of Utah, and Patrick Parenteau from Vermont, presented their views on the Act. Private practitioners and nonprofit representatives weighed in with their on-the-ground experience with the Act. A lively symposium edition of Environmental Law commemorated the scholarly papers from the conference.

The 30th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act fell in 2003. Professor Dan Rohlf spearheaded a program that addressed many aspects of the ESA, once again featuring a mix of plenary/keynote speakers and panels composed of leading faculty and practitioners. Topics for the conference included the history of the Act and discussions of critical habitat, listing of species, and the future of the ESA. Environmental Law published papers from this program as well.

In the spring of 2004, the program initiated a series of conferences in connection with the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. The first program, organized by Professor Jan Neuman, was entitled “From the Corps of Discovery, to the Doctrine of Discovery, and Beyond,” and addressed Lewis & Clark’s impact on Native Americans.

The second bicentennial program in 2005 focused on the Anglo-American “rule of capture” and its impacts on environmental and natural resources law and policy. Once again, law professors and experts from around the country came to provide creative and provocative ideas on this fundamental concept. The papers from this conference were published in Environmental Law.*

*Note: Since 2005, the program has sponsored at least one national conference a year, and plans to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. Conferences are now podcasted so that their reach extends to a worldwide audience.

New Staff, New Building

Janice Weis continues to serve as director and assistant dean of the environmental program. She has been with the Law School for over ten years and continues to oversee all of the aspects of the JD environmental and LL.M. programs. In 2000, the Law School hired Lin Harmon-Walker ‘91 to fill the newly-created assistant director position. Lin has become a valuable member of the environmental team. Among her many contributions are tutoring and helping international LL.M. students with their studies, organizing the annual nationally-focused environmental conference, and teaching an environmental negotiation and mediation seminar. Linda D’Agostino rounds out the staff as the program’s cheerful, dedicated, and organized program assistant.

In 2001, the environmental program staff, along with PEAC and IELP, moved into the newest building on campus, Wood Hall, an award-winning “green” building. Our beautiful new environs provide a work room for PEAC and IELP students, as well as the opportunity for key members of the program to work in close proximity.

After thirty-five years, I am pleased to report that the environmental and natural resources program continues to be a leader in the field. From its humble beginnings in 1970, the program now involves eleven faculty members, four clinic staff, numerous adjunct faculty, and three full-time staff. In 2001, the American Bar Association recognized the program with its Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law Award. U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks our program as one of the best in the nation; in fact, the program is currently ranked number 1. While these are nice reminders of how the outside world perceives the program, we also know that the success of the program has much to do with our alums who are around the world in a variety of interesting and important environmental law or policy jobs.


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