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I recently returned from a great family trip that took me to Vancouver Island and five other British Columbia islands.  If you have not been to this part of the world, I urge you to get there.

It is magnificent country: Dozens of islands, many with small bays that warm up enough for a great afternoon ocean swim.  Diverse multitudes of birds, fish, and marine mammals.  Tremendous sailing, kayaking, and exploring beaches that look as if no human has ever touched them. Dozens of ferries to move you through and around the islands.  Clams, oysters, crabs and fish to gather and savor.  First Nations people who have lived in the region for eons and remain committed to wise management of natural resources.

Bern and his daughter Tatum kayaking Oak Bay, Vancouver Island

A highlight of our trip was connecting with great Canadian ELAW partners and other advocates who are working to protect and enhance this wild country.  Calvin Sandborn of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria, and attorneys Linda Nowlan and Mark Haddock of Vancouver all helped us plan our trip.  In Victoria, I met with Calvin and strong advocates Claire Hutton, who works with First Nations on initiatives related to improving ecological and human wellbeing; Jenny Brown, who works with The Nature Conservancy to protect BC’s natural treasures; and Carmen Gustafson, who works with Calvin at the Environmental Law Centre.  We traveled to Galiano Island, where we met Chris Tollefson, the Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre.  We had a great time staying at Chris’ house on Galiano and learning how to gather and enjoy the edible treasures.  On Salt Spring Island, Calvin connected us with John Roe, who is revered for his successful crusade to clean up the Gorge, which was a toxic mess and is now a treasured, swimmable waterway abutting downtown Victoria.  John took us for a water-borne tour around Salt Spring and we could feel his passion for protecting the natural environment.  We were thrilled to learn that salmon now return to spawn in many streams on Salt Spring Island, while a few years ago the Island was barren of salmon!

I always enjoying getting out in the field with our partners and experiencing the natural treasures we all work to protect.  The late author Edward Abbey, who I enjoyed meeting many years ago, said it well:

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

My family sends thanks to all those who work so hard to protect British Columbia, and thanks for your hospitality in sharing it with us!

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

On December 16, 2010, Victoria City Council voted to bestow the award of “Honorary Citizen” on ELAW Partner Calvin Sandborn in recognition of the contribution that he and the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic have made to the City of Victoria and the Capital Region.

The official citation given with this award was presented by the Mayor of Victoria and stated the Clinic’s role in: protecting 2,350 hectares of ocean front, canyon and forests near Victoria; reforming regional storm water management; advocacy on numerous other environmental issues; and its mission of training Canada’s next generation of public interest lawyers.

Congratulations to Calvin and everyone at the Clinic for this most-deserved award!

Lauren Ice
ELAW Office Manager


The story behind the new parks in Victoria was originally published on the website of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic, and with permission, has been re-posted below.

March 8, 2010

In response to local government’s March 5 announcement to purchase lands in the Jordan River, Sooke Potholes and Weeks Lake areas, the ELC is grateful to have played a part in one of its most important victories ever.

Partnering with The Land Conservancy, the CRD has reached an agreement in principle to purchase 2,350 hectares of land from Western Forest Products for $18.8 million.  The lands will be protected for recreation, conservation and watershed protection for generations to come and include over 3.5km of shoreline from the world-famous surfing beach at Jordan River to Sandcut Beach.

One of the actions that contributed to this decision was the ELC’s 2007 submission on behalf of the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society to the Auditor General, which argued that the provincial government had improperly released the forest lands in question for development.  In a scathing report, the Auditor General concluded that government:

  • made the decision without sufficient regard for the public interest;
  • put greater weight on assisting the forest company’s financial restructuring than on other public interests;
  • put corporate interest above the public interests; and
  • the Forest Company and its parent company had made significant political contributions.

The report triggered a political storm that drove public demand for protection of the South Island’s Wild Coast.  A good summary of the political controversy and the Wild Coast movement is given in a Focus Magazine article.

The uproar made the front page of the national and provincial newspapers and led to more than a dozen angry editorials with headlines such “Stink of corruption sticking to BC government” and “Betrayal of the Public Trust.” Click here for links to the numerous articles.

While the new agreement doesn’t cover all forest lands released by the provincial government, tens of thousands of hectares of land in the area have previously been protected from development by rezoning of 300-acre minimum lots in an ELC-advocated initiative legislated last fall.  The ELC has taken a number of other legal actions to advance this cause.

Many thanks are due to the ELC students who have worked for the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society on this issue since May 2007.  Their law school work will leave a long-term legacy: Melinda Skeels, Dana Dempster, Emma Lehrer, Michaelin Scott, Tim Thielmann, Elizabeth Anderson, Rachel Forbes, Zahra Jimale, Earl Stevenson, Jen Smith and Micah Carmody.

Thanks are also due to ELC staffers, who have put in hundreds of hours of work on this legal project: Holly Pattison, Deborah Curran, Chris Tollefson, and Calvin Sandborn.

Finally, thanks to the ELC Board, the Law Faculty and especially to the Tula Foundation, all of whom make ELC operations possible.

ELAW partners summit Mt. Pisgah last spring

Every year, many of our partners travel for hours and hours on planes, trains and automobiles to reach the Eugene office just in time for the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.  This year, we have visitors from six countries on five different continents who will be speaking at the PIELC!

Rizwana Hasan of Bangladesh is a keynote speaker at the PIELC (Sunday at noon). Rizwana is a 2009 Goldman Prize winner for her work challenging human rights and environmental abuses in the shipbreaking business in her home country of Bangladesh.  She was also a 2009 Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.”  You can read more about her on the PIELC website.

Agnes Gajdics has been in Eugene since January, studying English at the American English Institute at the University of Oregon — and blogging about her experiences!  She will speak at the PIELC on Friday afternoon on a panel entitled “Giving the Public a Voice:  Procedural Environmental Rights.”  Joining her on that panel is Merab Barbakadze, who just missed a Lufthansa pilot’s strike to make it to Eugene.  He is an environmental attorney in the Republic of Georgia.

Calvin Sandborn will take the train to Eugene, arriving Thursday afternoon (if Amtrak is on time!). He is the Legal Director of the Environmental Law Center at the University of Victoria in Canada.  He will be speaking Friday afternoon on the topic of “Collaborative Partnerships for Livable and Sustainable Communities.”

Francis Colee works with Green Advocates in Liberia helping to amplify local voices as they speak out about environmental issues, especially those involving mining and forestry.  He is working to ensure that Liberia creates and maintains sustainable practices as those industries develop.

Kwesi Intsiful is a public interest environmental lawyer in Ghana.  He works with ELAW partners at The Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) in Accra on environmental and forestry issues.

Kwesi and Francis will speak on a panel at the PIELC on Saturday morning entitled “Liberia, Ghana and the U.S.: Collaborating for a Clean Environment.”  ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik will be the moderator for this panel.

And, attending from the fifth continent, is Andrés Pirazzoli, a partner from Chile who worked with ELAW as an extern during his LL.M. program at the University of Oregon.  Andres will also speak on Saturday morning, discussing “The Energy Trilemma:  Environment, Costs and Reliability,” a panel that will be moderated by ELAW Staff Attorney Jen Gleason.

ELAW Staff member Rita Radostitz will moderate and speak on a panel Saturday morning with Kelly Matheson of Witness.org and Kelli Mathews of Verve Northwest.  The panel will address “Communications that Move People to Act (or Give).”

We are thrilled to welcome these ELAW partners to Eugene and look forward to hearing them speak.  The entire schedule, including exact times and locations, is available on the PIELC website.  We hope to see you there!

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