Let me first wish all of our readers a joyous and peaceful new year!  Our blog series of 2010 feel good moments continues.

You read last week about some of ELAW staff’s favorite moments from 2010. Although everyone obliged and narrowed down their entries to only one piece, I quickly realized that these fond memories and unforgettable events would not be easily summarized into a few stale sentences. Instead of stripping these entries for the sake of length, I decided to retain the details and ensure that our readers got to hear the full story. And so, without further ado, Round 2 of ELAW’s “Staff Picks” of 2010. And yes, there will be a Round 3 – check back next week!

Lauren, ELAW Office Manager

Maggie, Communications Director
2010 ELAW Fellows

Maggie & ELAW Fellows from Ghana & Georgia

My 2010 highlight was the tremendous committed ELAW Fellows we hosted. We welcomed seven leading attorneys and one scientist, from Hungary, Liberia, Ghana, Georgia, Panama, Haiti, Germany, and China.  Four of our Fellows, including Zhang Yonghua from Shenzhen, China, were visiting the U.S. for their first time.

Zhang wrote in our guest book:

Dear ELAW Family:

Thanks for your helpfulness and friendship. Studying with ELAW has been one of the most important experiences in my life. I learned about American legal system, American environmental law system, climate markets, and regulating mining and marine pollution. In addition, I learned English and American culture at the same time.

I will never forget this valuable experience. I will never forget the friendship of the ELAW staff. I will do my best to help those suffering from environmental pollution. Dear friend, welcome to China. I am waiting for you!

Zhang Yonghua

ELAW Fellowships are individually tailored to meet the needs of our partners.  Zhang lived in the “ELAW House,” rode the ELAW bike to classes at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute, and worked closely with ELAW staff attorneys and scientists to enrich his understanding of public interest law and environmental issues facing communities in China.

Eager to explore life in America, Zhang spoke to an environmental science class at our local high school. The students were pleased to meet someone from China working to address pollution.

Making personal connections here in Eugene with our partners from around the world was my personal highlight in 2010. We have already welcomed our first ELAW Fellow in 2011 – Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director of Environment-People-Law, based in Lviv, Ukraine.  In late February, Olena will be joined by ELAW Fellows from Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia, Liberia, and Ghana.

Stay tuned for blog posts from these inspiring ELAW partners.

Liz, Staff Attorney
Bringing Lessons Home

Part of our mission at ELAW is to help build the next generation of public interest environmental lawyers.  Each year, the ELAW network welcomes new partners from around the world, some of whom are just a few years into their practice.  I have a pinboard above my desk with picture upon picture of ELAW partners that I’ve had the honor and great fun of meeting over the years.  One of my favorites is an image of Fernando Dougnac, the esteemed Chilean environmental lawyer, atop Mt. Pisgah in Eugene.  He is surrounded by environmental lawyers many years his junior from the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and the Dominican Republic.  Arms around each other, smiles broad — the image says it all.  Each generation shares experience, new insights, energy, and (most of all) a special camaraderie that is the hallmark of the ELAW network.

Don Fernando and friends

ELAW also plays a role in building this new generation of public interest lawyers in the U.S.  ELAW maintains a close connection with the University of Oregon School of Law, and hosts several UO law students during the academic year, as well as full-time interns from UO and other law schools over the summer months.  These second and third year students gain valuable experience working on projects with leading environmental advocates around the world.

Of my many “ELAW moments” of 2010, one that brings me great joy is working with one of our stellar summer interns, Ashley White, during her first week at ELAW in late May.  Generally the first week of an ELAW summer legal internship is relatively calm, and we try not to overwhelm anyone — at least until they get settled in!  Ashley, however, started her internship during a week when we had a lot of deadlines.  One urgent request came from a lawyer in Southeast Asia concerning a very specific procedural defense that had been raised by a mining company in one of her cases.  In my mind, I was not hopeful that we would find any helpful court precedents in such a short time.  I also worried that this challenging request would be a terrible first assignment for a new intern and would sour her entire summer experience at ELAW.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Ashley and I set to work, first learning about this defense (more often used in Commonwealth countries than in the U.S.) and then searching for court decisions that could help our partner.  We gathered as much information as we could, scanned books, and emailed attachments.  A few days later, our partner not only emailed us some wonderful words of gratitude along with news of her victory, but also took the time to explain what had happened during the court hearing — including a vivid description of the sudden rainstorm that forced angry protestors (brought to the courthouse by the mining company) to hastily retreat back into their bus right as she was about to enter the courthouse.  As we read over the court’s decision, we were pleased to see that the court had included an excerpt from a case that Ashley had found from the Solomon Islands.

As thrilled as I was for our partner, I was equally thrilled that Ashley had seen her hard work and research have such a direct and immediate impact out in the world.  It is moments like this that draw the new generation of lawyers to the practice of public interest environmental law and bring inspiration to those of us who have been fortunate enough to work in this field for many years.

Glenn, IT Manager
Belize Bans Bottom Trawling

My personal highlight was announced by ELAW partners in December:  Belize banned all bottom trawling in its waters!  This ban will help protect marine life including the Mesoamerican Reef.

According to Oceana, which led the campaign, “Belize has become one of the first countries in the world to institute a complete and permanent ban on trawling in all its waters.” We are sure this ban will inspire advocates working to protect marine life around the world!