For Immediate Release


Stacey Schmader:

Major Gains for Rights of Nature Movement Met With Corporate and State Backlash

Following 2020 developments in Ecuador, French Guiana, the Nez Perce Tribe, Costa Rica, Spain, the Yurok Tribe, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, the American Petroleum Institute and lawmakers in Missouri respond to repress momentum in the United States.

WASHINGTON - So far in 2020, important developments for the global Rights of Nature movement have been made in Ecuador, French Guiana, Australia, the Nez Perce Tribe, Spain, Costa Rica, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, and the Yurok Tribe, which helped win an historic agreement to remove dams on the Klamath River (whose rights the tribe formally recognized in 2019.) This week, backlash to the movement has come from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and lawmakers in Missouri.

On December 1, 2020, the API, perhaps the most influential fossil fuel lobby in the nation, filed a brief in opposition to a federal civil rights case brought by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, in defense of local communities’ right to vote on qualified local Rights of Nature laws.

The same day the API filed its legal brief, a bill (HB 54), to try to ban Rights of Nature in the courts was introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives. The language is almost identical to language passed in 2019, by the Ohio Legislature, that was drafted by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in direct response to the passage of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.


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Weeks ago, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision in McGirt, which ruled that much of Eastern Oklahoma falls within Indian reservations who have sovereignty to pass environmental law (including Rights of Nature lawmaking by the Ponca Tribe), Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and allies sought to undermine the decision by asking Congress to strip environmental authority from tribes. (Ponca Environmental Ambassador Casey Camp Horinek and the group Movement Rights have been organizing to defend tribal sovereignty and the Rights of Nature in the state.)

Additionally, in September, a corporate law firm that filed a lawsuit against the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, used civil rights law to demand attorney fees from the City of Toledo, for its fleeting defense of the people’s law. This amounts to financial reprisal against residents of Toledo, Ohio for their enactment of the historic law.

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The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

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