Jeremy Orr of EarthJustice gives a keynote speech Sunday, March 3 at the UO’s PIELC. Courtesy photo.

‘Cultivating Community’ and Environmental Law

One of the largest and oldest public interest environmental law conferences in the world is being held in Eugene

Since 1983, PIELC has taken over the University of Oregon Law school for three days full of workshops, panels and discussions about climate justice and advocacy. 

This weekend from March 1 to 3, thousands of environmental activists, attorneys, students and scientists from around the world will again unite at the University of Oregon School of Law for one of the world’s largest and oldest environmental conferences: Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. 

The conference will feature over 125 panels and workshops with a wide range of environmental issues from state and corporate oppression of earth defenders to policy issues in West Coast wolf recovery and combating oil drilling in the Arctic. 

Environmental group Oregon Wild is leading a number of panels, including one on potential changes in the Northwest Forest Plan and what it means for Oregon’s forests. The panel will go over the amendment proposal released by the U.S. Forest Service at the end of 2023.  

“This law conference is a really important place for getting together with other organizations and celebrating the legal and policy avenues we have for doing environmental advocacy,” says Chandra LeGue, Oregon Wild senior conservation advocate.

In addition to the variety of workshops and panels, attendees can also expect to hear from three keynote speakers with a wide-range of environmental law backgrounds. 

Dr. Alaí Reyes-Santo — the director of PNW Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice and director of community engagement for the new Climate Solutions Center at the University of Oregon — will kick off the conference Friday, March 1. Reyes-Santos will be followed by Dune Lankard, founder of the Eyak Preservation Council and one of TIME magazine’s top 50 heroes for the planet, on Saturday, March 2. The weekend will close out with a speech from Jeremy Orr, the director of Litigation and Advocacy Partnerships at the nonprofit environmental law organization, EarthJustice, Sunday, March 3. EarthJustice is a nonprofit environmental law organization, working at the federal, state and local level with 15 offices and 200 attorneys across the country. 

Orr says he will focus his speech primarily on the democratization of water. “The decision-making around water should be inclusive of all people.” Orr adds that he will discuss ways we can avoid mismanagement of water systems by the government and also transition away from making water a private entity.

He will discuss how water is an environmental justice issue and the “challenges and opportunities at the intersection of democracy and water governance.”

This year’s PIELC is centered around “Cultivating Community” and is organized by University of Oregon law students. 

PIELC organizers Keiran Hadley, Charity Martinez, Morgan McWilliams and Nicolette Ohlsen write in an email to Eugene Weekly, “Through this theme, we hope to celebrate the achievements of diverse leaders in the environmental movement in addition to building the foundation of a more inclusive, community-based approach to the environmental challenges our world is facing.”

PIELC is free and open to the public, but a $20 donation is recommended.To register PIELC go to