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Multimedia: Environmental law program attracts ideologically diverse students

April 06, 2010

  • Ryan Talbott
  • Nikki Campbell

Law students Ryan Talbott and Nikki Campbell were both drawn to Lewis & Clark Law School because of its environmental law program, yet their legal interests could someday find them pitted against each other in a courtroom.

The “natural resources” focus of the Environmental and Natural Resources law program tends to be overlooked and, as a result, the broad spectrum of ideology among students the program attracts can go largely unnoticed. While many law students plan to work on behalf of conservation and environmental protection issues, an increasing number of law students want to represent the interests of farmers, ranchers, and natural resource developers.

A three-part series developed by the Lewis & Clark Federalist Society, a student group at the law school, represents this growing interest in diverse perspectives in the environmental and natural resources arena. The organization—whose mission is, in part, to provide a forum for legal experts of opposing views to interact with law students—planned a series of events this spring to bring leading experts to campus. The group hopes to make the second event, a debate on April 6, an annual occurrence.

This year, Becky Norton Dunlop, vice president of external relations at the Heritage Institute, and Melissa Powers, professor of environmental law and clinical professor at the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, will argue the pros and cons of market and regulatory strategies regarding energy policy.

Elliot Alford, president of the Federalist Society, is eager to create events designed to counteract what he calls “groupthink” and provide his peers with opportunities to engage with a broader range of experts on environmental law.

“I do believe that there is a general support for the way environmental law has developed in our country, which serves to keep people ‘inside the box,’ so to speak,” Alford said. “Perhaps this is because there is a perception that graduates from our school have been successful at working within the regulatory system as it is, and so why look at it differently?”

No matter the political perspective on environmental law, students at Lewis & Clark stand to gain important insight from distinguished faculty, invited guests, and peers. Talbott and Campbell both agree that Lewis & Clark Law School is offering them the tools they need for future careers in environmental law.

Earning an environmental law degree to conserve forested lands

Lewis & Clark’s reputation as the leading environmental law school attracted Ryan Talbott, a native of Marienville, Pennsylvania and the executive director of the Allegheny Defense Project (ADP), an organization that works to preserve the forest’s wilderness areas and restore land after commercial use. A first-year law student, Talbott spent much of his youth exploring the Allegheny forest. When a favorite camping spot was taken over for oil and gas development, Talbott joined the ADP. After becoming the organization’s executive director and wrestling with environmental policies, Talbott realized a law degree would be critical to his conservation work.

In this podcast (mp3), Talbott discusses life as a law school student, the Allegheny forest, and his interest in environmental law.


Earning an environmental law degree to defend landowners

Lewis & Clark’s reputation as the leading environmental law school also attracted Nikki Campbell, a third-year law student who hopes to practice natural resources law and serve as an elected official. Campbell says that studying alongside so many conservationists has strengthened her understanding of their legal arguments. For the past two years, Campbell has worked at the Western Resources Legal Center (WRLC), a Portland-based nonprofit representing the interests of property owners such as ranchers, as well natural resource developers. 

In this podcast (mp3), Campbell discusses her work at the WRLC and why she believes environmental issues aren’t so black-and-white.


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