CEJ Staff Attorney Position Available

Staff Attorney Position Available

The Center for Earth Jurisprudence is seeking a Staff Attorney to assist in legal and legislative matters on a contractual, as-needed basis.


Margaret Stewart, mstewart@barry.edu, 321-206-5691


December 7, 2016

Job Title

Staff Attorney

Job Location

Physical Office: 6441 East Colonial Drive, Orlando FL 32807. Position mostly remote.

Preferred Qualifications

Admission to the Florida Bar required. Three to five years of experience (minimum) in litigation, appellate, or legislative advocacy; public policy formation; demonstration of ability to distinguish between environmental law and Earth Jurisprudence; understanding how social movements are generated and maintained; love and respect for natural environment; comprehensive knowledge of environmental and earth law theories, concepts and practices and ability to use in complex, difficult and/or unprecedented situations.

Starting Contract

Negotiable and commensurate with experience, hourly basis

Position Availability

Position will remain open until filled

Application Deadline

Please send application materials by January 6, 2017

To Apply

Please send resume to Margaret Stewart at mstewart@barry.edu

Description of the Position

The Center for Earth Jurisprudence is seeking a Staff Attorney to assist in legal and legislative matters on a contractual, as-needed basis. At the request of the Director, the Staff Attorney will be responsible for:

  •  Drafting legal memoranda, administrative comments, legal briefs, proposed legislation, and legal strategies that advance CEJ’s adopted positions.
  • Assist the CEJ Team in developing a template for strategic legal initiatives for the Center to increase the legal protection of nature.
  • Identify and collaborate with environmental and legal partners in increasing legislative and community awareness and support to enhance greater legal protection of ecosystems, both local and national.

CEJ is the only Center within a U.S. law school dedicated to advancing laws, policy, and governance designed to protect the natural systems, species, and entities that sustain life on Earth through the use of Earth Law principles. Our work is based upon the concept that humanity has a basic responsibility to care for and protect the long-term health and well-being of Earth, meaning all beings and ecosystems that constitute the natural world, recognizing that humanity is an integral and interdependent part of nature. Earth Jurisprudence is an emerging field of law that encompasses both environmental ethics and legal practice. In the past 10 years CEJ has advanced its outreach, programming and visibility significantly.

Florida Springs Restoration Summit 2016

On September 30, 2016, the CEJ team attended and participated in an event that Dr. Robert Knight of the Florida Springs Institute called “the most significant springs event in a decade.” The Florida Springs Restoration Summit, organized by the Florida Springs Council, was a two-day conference in Ocala that brought together scientists, legal experts, agency & environmental organization managers, water advocates, and artists to learn about the problems facing Florida’s freshwater springs and to brainstorm ways to solve these problems. The keynote speakers were noted photographer and author John Moran and U.S. Congresswomen Gwen Graham.

                                                 Traci Deen, Margaret Stewart, and Dr. Robert Knight

                                                 Traci Deen, Margaret Stewart, and Dr. Robert Knight

Katie Tripp of the Save the Manatee Club, who chairs the Florida Springs Council’s Education Committee explained, “The vision for the Summit is for people to leave with a plan of action that can serve as a roadmap forward as well as a summary of where we’ve been and where we are now.”

The CEJ team was present and active throughout the Summit. Our Director, Traci Deen, led the Legal Remedies Panel and our Staff Attorney, Rob Williams, presented on the Legislative Initiatives panel. Additionally, two of CEJ’s Advisory Board members, Clay Henderson and Lucinda Merritt, participated in the Summit.

Legal Remedies Panel

The CEJ Team: Traci Deen, Rob Williams, Margaret Stewart

The CEJ Team: Traci Deen, Rob Williams, Margaret Stewart

CEJ’s Director, Traci Deen, introduced and led this incredible panel filled with leading experts on the legal options available for effective springs protection and restoration. The panel included attorneys Clay Henderson, John Thomas, John Joplin, and activist, Linda Young.  As Traci explained, this esteemed panel would address what laws are working, what laws are not working, and what litigation is ongoing now to protect water in Florida.

Dr. Robert Knight, John Thomas, Linda Young, Clay Henderson, John Joplin, Traci Deen

Dr. Robert Knight, John Thomas, Linda Young, Clay Henderson, John Joplin, Traci Deen

CEJ Advisory Board member, Clay Henderson, gave a powerful opening presentation on the legal remedies panel. Clay, an environmental attorney, is the Executive Director of the Stetson Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. He has sponsored or co-authored most of the natural resource protection provisions in the Florida Constitution, including Amendment 1, the largest voter-approved conservation funding initiative in our nation’s history, and the creation of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He led the development of nationally-recognized land conservation programs, including Volusia Forever (1986 and 2000), Florida Communities Trust (1990), Preservation 2000 (1991) Florida Forever (1999), and has negotiated more than 300,000 acres of lands now part of national and state parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.

                                                     CEJ Advisory Board Member, Clay Henderson

                                                     CEJ Advisory Board Member, Clay Henderson

As Clay explained, effective legal mechanisms are still available, for the most part. The problem is the current political reality. For example, the 2016 Water Bill entitled The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (SB 552), provided some significant tools for springs protection and restoration. However, it needs more oversight, better implementation, and a number of amendments. Senator David Simmons described the Act during the legislative initiatives panel:  "It's a home run, but we're only in the first inning. We have [] innings to go."

Clay explained that as the co-author of the “good” Amendment 1, he is disappointed that it hasn’t lived up to his expectations. We need more oversight, accountability, and transparency of the spending of Amendment 1 funds. There is approximately $1 billion for springs restoration at stake. From these examples, we see that as Clay explained, there are many legal tools available, but we need to ensure they are implemented effectively going forward.

When asked how advocates can utilize the legal remedies available for springs protection and restoration, Clay has three suggestions: (1) Engage, (2) perfect your legal standing, and (3) don't be afraid to pull the trigger.

Legislative Initiatives Panel

Rob Williams, CEJ’s staff attorney, discussed the current legislative initiatives available to us and how they are working.

You cannot just buy a spring, you need to protect the spring shed.
— Rob WIlliams

According to Rob, “Florida Forever has been fantastic for our springs. Since 1991, the First Magnitude Springs Project under Florida Forever has acquired roughly 9500 acres of land at a cost of over $100 million. It thereby protected some of our finest springs.” As Rob explained, this is a testament to what can be done when the tools available to us are implemented and executed effectively. However, he continued, “There are still 6500 acres to go. That’s something we need to do.”  There are still essential areas that need to be acquired for sufficient springs protection.

We need more comprehensive planning in our land acquisition and springs protection/ restoration efforts. The lack of cohesive, large-scale planning was addressed as a major impediment to springs protection and restoration by many of the panelists throughout the Summit.

Keynote Presentations

Friday’s keynote speaker was photographer and author, John Moran. As usual, John brought with him some truly stunning pictures of Florida’s incredible ecosystems.

However, as his presentation explained, his pictures are increasingly becoming more about the destruction of Florida’s environment than the beauty of it. What used to be clear and blue is now murky and green. Elevated nitrate levels and overall ecological degradation is quickly destroying all that makes Florida unique and beautiful.

As John so poignantly explained:

In Florida, ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.
— John Moran
CEJ's Traci Deen and the Honorable Gwen Graham

CEJ's Traci Deen and the Honorable Gwen Graham

Saturday’s keynote speaker was U.S. Congresswoman, Gwen Graham. Representative Graham delivered an informative, passionate, and direct address to the Summit’s attendees.

She began describing her own personal experiences and appreciation of Florida's environment, instilled in her at a young age by her father, Senator Bob Graham. She not only eloquently illustrated her own love and appreciation for Florida's natural wonders, but explained that the environmental degradation we are seeing across the state is merely one symptom of a much larger disease.  She stated her belief that the absence of bipartisan environmental policies, like those present during her father's time in office, have lead to the current, critical state of Florida's ecosystem. She explained that she, like most of us, worries about future generations and whether they will be able to enjoy and appreciate Florida's natural treasures as we have.  As she so emphatically stated:

The springs will not protect themselves. It’s our responsibility to ensure that they’re here for future generations and for all Floridians to enjoy.
— Congresswoman Gwen Graham

She passionately stated to the audience that protecting our natural treasures is not just policy, but personal. She then quoted one of our favorite authors,  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings:

The earth may be borrowed, but not bought. It may be used, but not owned.
— Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in her memoir Cross Creek

Congresswoman Graham ended her address with words of hope and encouragement, stating that the collection of people in the room gave her confidence in the future protection and restoration of Florida's springs.

Overall, the Summit was insightful and inspirational-- and frankly, we couldn't agree more with Congresswoman Graham in feeling optimistic at its conclusion, due in large part to the springs advocates we were with in that very room.

LWVOC's Marty Sullivan; CEJ's Margaret Stewart, Traci Deen, & Rob Williams; Florida Springs Institute's Heather Obara & Dr. Robert Knight

LWVOC's Marty Sullivan; CEJ's Margaret Stewart, Traci Deen, & Rob Williams; Florida Springs Institute's Heather Obara & Dr. Robert Knight

Advancing Earth Law at the 2016 IUCN Congress

CEJ’s Director attended the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress as an advocate for Earth Law and Policy.  This quadrennial event is attended by global leaders and high-ranking government officials, nonprofit organizations, scientists, academics, artists, business leaders, and indigenous representatives from all over the world. At the opening ceremonies on September 1, 2016, IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng announced that over 9,000 participants from 190+ countries attended the Congress this year--a truly global and diverse gathering.

Traci Deen was selected to serve on the IUCN Junior Research Task Force throughout the Congress and invited to speak at the Emerging Leaders in Environmental Law event hosted by the World Commission on Environmental Law and the William S. Richardson School of Law at University of Hawaii.

What is the IUCN World Conservation Congress?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is a membership Union, uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations. It provides public, private, and non-governmental organizations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together. Its members derive from 161 countries, 217 state and government agencies, 1066 non-governmental organizations, and approximately 16,000 experts on the state of the world’s natural resources. IUCN meets every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to set priorities and agree on the Union’s work programme. IUCN congresses have produced several key international environmental agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Convention, and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

"Humans need to be kind to Mother Earth. Together there is no limit to what we humans can achieve." - Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment

This year’s theme was “Planet at the Crossroads.” As the IUCN explains:

The ecosystems that underpin our economies, well-being and survival are collapsing. Species are becoming extinct at unprecedented rates. Our climate is in crisis. And it’s all happening on our watch. This is the moment to get it right. In 2015, almost 200 nations agreed on ambitious goals for sustainable development and achieving climate neutrality. These agreements represent a historic opportunity to improve the lives of billions of people around the globe and put nature at the heart of our decisions. It’s time to move these agreements into action.


This year marked the first time the Congress was held in the United States. IUCN President Xinsheng stated the this year's Congress was "about moving 2015's historic global agreements into action."

CEJ, along with other members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, advocated at the Congress that the implementation of Resolution 100 into the 2017-2020 Work Programme would encourage the necessary shift from an anthropocentric to an Earth-centered worldview and ethic, particularly in Environmental Law and Policy. This shift would help fulfill goals for sustainable development and achieving climate neutrality.

What is Resolution 100?

Four years ago at the 2014 Congress, IUCN members recognized nature’s rights by passing Resolution 100, “Incorporation of the Rights of Nature as the organizational focal point in IUCN’s decision making.” This Resolution called for nature’s rights to be a “fundamental and absolute key element in all IUCN decisions,” and recommended development of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature. We partnered with the Earth Law Center, and other members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature while at the IUCN Congress, in part to ask that the IUCN continue to incorporate Rights of Nature in IUCN motions and the 2017-2020 Work Programme.

Earth Law at the IUCN Congress

CEJ was advocating for Earth Law and Policy at every opportunity.

This IUCN Congress held several sessions dedicated to examining environmental laws worldwide. One in particular, led by the Earth Law Center and co-sponsored by CEJ, Earth-Centered Law and Regulation for Safeguarding Nature, explored the latest developments in the Rights of Nature and Earth Jurisprudence movement, examined our responsibilities towards nature, and discussed reparations for ecological damage.  Participants, including some of the world’s top environmental legal minds, developed from the Workshop a list of actions and best practices to move Earth-centered law and policy forward.

Another, Environmental Rule of Law: Rights-Based Approaches, Sustainable Development, and the Way Forward, led by the Environmental Law Institute, raised awareness on the status of environmental rule of law, and explored opportunities to advance concrete measures for achieving environmental rule of law. Emphasizing that environmental rule of law prioritizes environmental sustainability by connecting it with fundamental rights and obligations, the session evaluated the World Declaration of the Environmental Rule of Law, which, notably states that “All life has the inherent right to exist.” CEJ was in attendance for this session, and many of the World Commission on Environmental Law sessions, networking and learning from environmental law leaders from around the world.

While at the Congress, CEJ's Director spoke at the Emerging Leaders in Environmental Law event at the William S. Richardson School of Law at University of Hawaii on Earth Law as a path forward. There, she stated, in part:

Our current laws embody a flawed and misguided anthropocentric worldview. Our laws now place humanity apart from and ahead of nature, rather than as an integral part of the greater whole. Earth Jurisprudence principles would balance human interests with the rights of ecosystems to exist, continue, and regenerate, and with the rights of current and future generations to live on a healthy, thriving planet.

This foundational re-imagining of law advocates for a more eco-centric approach, reverence of biodiversity, and living in harmony with nature by expanding legal standing for natural entities, re-envisioning the anthropocentric paradigm, inclusion and application of the precautionary principle —and arguably advancement and broadening of the public trust concept. While the current legal system tends to legitimize environmental devastation in the name of short term economic gains, Earth Jurisprudence advances legal tools that will protect the long-term health, viability, and ecological sustainability of the planet. There is a way to have a thriving global economy, people, and planet—it’s through the implementation of Earth Laws.
— Traci Deen, Esq., CEJ Director


Advancing Earth Law at the IUCN Congress

So, what happened? IUCN adopted Earth Jurisprudence principles into two motions & the 2017-2020 Work Programme!

IUCN recognized Earth Jurisprudence principles, and especially the inherent rights of nature, in two approved motions and in its 2017-20 Work Programme. The two motions, Crimes against the Environment and Humanity's Right to a Healthy Environment, both recall Resolution 100 as a basis for passage, citing to Res. 100's language that incorporation of the Rights of Nature shall be an "organizational focal point in IUCN's decision making," and "calls for consideration of the Rights of Nature as a 'fundamental and absolute key element" in all areas of IUCN intervention and decision making.'"

These motions recognize many Earth Jurisprudence principles, including the dependence of people on a healthy planet, the ecological crisis we face today, the duty of care we have to the natural entities that sustain life on Earth, our responsibility to future generations, and the inherent value and rights of nature.

Additionally, the IUCN Work Programme also implemented Resolution 100. From the IUCN website, the Work Programme serves the following purpose:

  • Valuing and conserving nature -enhances IUCN’s heartland work on biodiversity conservation, emphasizing both tangible and intangible values of nature.
  • Effective and equitable governance of nature’s use -consolidates IUCN’s work on people-nature relations, rights and responsibilities, and the political economy of nature.
  • Deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges -expands IUCN’s work on nature’s contribution to tackling problems of sustainable development, particularly in climate change, food security and social and economic development.

The 2017-20 Work Programme now states, in part : "IUCN ... aims to secure the rights of nature and the vulnerable parts of society through strengthening governance and the rights-based approach to conservation. "

This timely adoption of rights of nature into the IUCN Work Programme came only weeks after the United Nations Harmony with Nature Initiative released its report calling for, in part, the "support for implementation of the IUCN resolution (WCC-2012-Res-100, September 2012) calling for the incorporation of the rights of Nature concepts into law and science."

This is a promising step forward for Earth Jurisprudence, and one we look forward to seeing evolve and grow over time!

Photo taken at booth at the IUCN Congress in Hawaii.

Photo taken at booth at the IUCN Congress in Hawaii.



CEJ's New Associate Director

CEJ is pleased to announce the promotion of Margaret Stewart, Esq. to Associate Director. Margaret joined the CEJ team earlier this year as the Manager of Programs and Operations. In that time, she has represented CEJ at the World Social Forum in Montreal and has assisted in the planning and execution of CEJ events.

Margaret is on the Executive Committee of the Florida Springs Council, serving as Chair of the Legal Committee. She also serves on the Social Media Sub-Committee of the Orange County League of Women Voters Natural Resource Action Group and is an active member of the Central Florida Association of Women Lawyers.  She has earned her B.A. in Political Science, her M.P.A. in Non-Profit & Human Resources Management, and her Juris Doctorate. She is a member of the Florida Bar.

Margaret enjoys traveling to new destinations and is always ready for the next adventure. Being from an urban jungle like Philadelphia, she has delighted in the natural treasures of Florida over the past four years.

Margaret shared, “I am honored to be working for an organization with such an incredible legacy and am looking forward to this next step in my career, continuing to do something that I am passionate about.”

Current Florida Springs Protections: a "Right to Pollute"

In honor of our 10th anniversary, we are throwing it back in a #TBT series! Take a walk down memory lane with us. In this post, we are featuring an article written for CEJ's December 2012 Groundswell. Unfortunately, the need for greater environmental protections for Florida Springs is just as dire today as it was when this was written- if not more so. With the water problems Florida is experiencing statewide, this article is as relevant today as it was in 2012.*  As you can see, CEJ has remained an outspoken advocate for Florida Springs for many years. We intend to continue fighting for greater legal consideration of Florida's natural systems in the years to come.

*Please keep in mind that some of the citations and data may be outdated. However, the point remains that a new legal approach is needed to truly protect Florida Springs. Enjoy this #TBT article!


Right to Farm or Right to Pollute?

By Robert A. Williams, Staff Attorney | Center for Earth Jurisprudence

Originally published in the December 2012 Groundswell

In the past, Florida has often been a pioneer in environmental regulation. Isn’t it about time that we reclaimed that role by taking action to protect Florida’s precious springs?


Part of Earth Jurisprudence’s critique of existing environmental regulation is that all too often, what starts as an attempt to regulate polluters ends up being a license to pollute.  This classic “licensing a wrong” effect demonstrates the inadequacy of a regulatory approach that focuses solely on human needs and wants:  it legally protects acts of pollution, while disregarding any right of nature–in this case, Florida’s springs ecosystems—to be healthy in its own regard. Florida’s regulation of agricultural nitrate pollution provides a textbook example of this pattern.

One of the biggest threats facing Florida’s springs is the growing concentration of nitrate in groundwater, which feeds the growth of filamentous algae species such as Lyngbya.  There is plenty of blame to go around—lawn fertilizer, septic tanks, and inadequate treatment of waste water all contribute to the nitrate problem.  However, in many of the major springsheds, agriculture is the primary source of the nitrate that is killing the springs.

The Santa Fe River Basin, which contains the beautiful Ichetucknee Springs, is a case in point.  Nearly 80% of the total nitrogen load to the Santa Fe from nonpoint sources comes from agricultural activities. There is no way that we can solve the problem of nitrate pollution in the Santa Fe River basin without effective regulation of agriculture requiring significant reductions in the amount of nitrate that agricultural operations put into the aquifer. 

However, effective regulation is frustrated at every turn.  When the Department of Environmental Protection attempted in 2008 to set the level of allowable nitrate at 0.286 mg/L, agricultural interests represented by the Suwannee River Partnership vociferously objected and were successful in having the level of allowable nitrate pollution increased to 0.35 mg/L.

Setting the target level of nitrate is only the first step in the regulatory process.  The standard known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is implemented through the creation of a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP).  The BMAP is developed with the “stakeholders,” which usually consist of the major polluters.  In this case the “stakeholders” were the same special interests who objected to the proposed TMDL.

In fact, four years later most of the area covered by the 2008 TMDL—including two of Florida’s largest springs, Fanning Springs and Manatee Springs—still [did] not even have an approved implementation plan.  [In 2012], with great fanfare, Secretary Vinyard, flanked by various agribusiness interests, announced that a BMAP had been finalized for the Santa Fe River Basin portion of the area covered by the 2008 TMDL.  But don’t expect to see any improvement any time soon:  the plan specifically states that the TMDL “will not be achieved for several decades.”[i]  In the meantime, the priceless springs of the Suwannee River and its tributaries will continue to deteriorate.

The major reason that progress is so slow is the failure to effectively regulate agricultural polluters.  In order to meet the 0.35 mg/L target, the agricultural sector would have to reduce nitrate pollution by 35%.  However, the manner in which this is to be achieved is through the voluntary adoption of what are known as Best Management Practices (BMPs) established by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS).  Farmers have a choice:  they can either agree to adopt the BMPs or they can demonstrate that they are in compliance with the standard. 

Farmers, however, have a powerful incentive to opt for the BMPs:  adoption of the BMPs provides a presumption of compliance with state water quality standards and release from the provisions of Section 376.307(5), Florida Statutes, for those pollutants addressed by the practice.  Furthermore, the Department of Environmental Protection is not authorized to institute proceedings against the owner or source of the pollution to recover costs or damages associated with the contamination of surface or groundwater caused by those pollutants.

There is another benefit for farmers who adopt the BMPs.  Under Florida’s Right to Farm Act, Section 823.14, Florida Statutes, farming operations which have been in operation for year or more and which were not nuisances when they were established are immune from suit for either public or private nuisance, as long as the operation conforms to generally accepted agricultural and management practices.  Moreover, the Right to Farm Act prohibits local governments from adopting any rules or ordinances which regulate farming activities conducted in accordance with the BMPs.

The Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan makes it clear that this grant of immunity to agriculture is one of the key assumptions underlying the plan:

By law, agricultural producers who implement FDACS-adopted BMPs applicable to their operations (identified through the submittal of a NOI [Notice of Intent]) have a presumption of compliance with state water quality standards.[ii]

But this isn’t quite true:  according to the applicable statute, only “[i]mplementation . . . of practices that have been initially verified to be effective, or verified to be effective by monitoring at representative sites, by the department”[iii] provides the presumption of compliance.  Effectiveness refers not merely to whether the practices reduce the pollution, but to whether they are likely to achieve the targets set forth in the BMAP:

Where interim measures, best management practices, or other measures are adopted by rule, the effectiveness of such practices in achieving the levels of pollution reduction established in allocations developed by the department . . . must be verified at representative sites by the department.  The department shall use best professional judgment in making the initial verification that the best management practices are reasonably expected to be effective.[iv]

That is not is what [was] happening.  The Department of Environmental Protection did not make an initial verification that following the BMPs [could] be reasonably expected to result in a 35% reduction in nitrates coming from agriculture in the Santa Fe River Basin.  Apparently, the Department’s view is that DACS may set the BMPs based on the particular crop activity on a state-wide basis, without regard to a specific TMDL.  Again, that is not what the statute appears to say:

[DACS] may develop and adopt by rule . . . suitable interim measures, best management practices, or other measures necessary to achieve the level of pollution reduction established by the department for agricultural pollutant sources.[v]

One recently adopted BMP rule is typical.  The Best Management Practices for Florida Equine Operations says that its purpose “is to effect pollutant reduction through the implementation of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) that may be determined to have minimal individual or cumulative adverse impacts to the water resources of the state.”[vi]  However, just because the harmful effects have been minimized does not mean that they are minimal.  There certainly is no connection between following the practices and meeting the targeted reduction.

For example, the manual says that is a best practice to follow the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) guidelines for pasture fertilization.[vii]  The IFAS guidelines recommend that not more than 50 to 160 pounds of nitrogen be applied per acre, depending on grazing use, whether the pasture is being cut for hay, and other factors.[viii]  Because data suggests that farmers use about 69 pounds of nitrogen per acre on improved pasture, following the recommendations is not likely to have a big impact on the nitrate load coming from improved pasture, which is one of the biggest single sources of nitrate load in the Santa Fe River basin.

The DACS rule also provides for the Presumption of Compliance:

[A]gricultural operations that implement BMPs, in accordance with FDACS rules, that have been verified by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as effective in reducing pollutants addressed by the practices are presumed to comply with state water quality standards, and are released from the provisions of the Section 376.307(5), F.S., for those pollutants.[ix]

In other words, the farmers are off the hook for polluting the aquifer as long as they make some effort to reduce nitrate, even if those efforts are insufficient to meet the target.

The failure to link the BMPs to the required reductions makes it almost certain that the target level will not be reached.  This is even more true in the areas where the approved TMDLs require even greater reductions in the amount of nitrate to reach the 0.35 mg/L target.  The proposed TMDLs for Silver and Rainbow Springs require 79% and 82% reductions, respectively.  These levels of reduction cannot be obtained by compliance with the published BMPs.  Thus the BMAPs essentially become licenses to continue to dump nitrates into the aquifer at levels known to cause ecological harm.

The obvious failure of our current environmental regulations to protect some of the most important and unique ecosystems argues for a new approach.

The obvious failure of our current environmental regulations to protect some of the most important and unique ecosystems argues for a new approach.  New models for environmental protection based on the rights of nature are emerging around the world.  Most recently, New Zealand has recognized the Whanganui River and its tributaries as a legal entity with rights as an “integrated, living whole.”[x]  Two guardians will be appointed to oversee the health and well-being of the river pursuant to this new legal recognition.  A case in Ecuador has similarly protected the rights of waterways to flow in a case on the Vilcabamba River that implemented the country’s landmark 2008 constitutional provisions recognizing the rights of nature.[xi]

In the past, Florida has often been a pioneer in environmental regulation.  Isn’t it about time that we reclaimed that role by taking action to protect Florida’s precious springs?  Licensing the wrongs being visited upon the springs ecosystems can never make them right.  But an Earth jurisprudence approach could change that destructive pattern, by recognizing in law the inherent rights of springs and spring-dependent species to exist and flourish.


[i] Bureau of Watershed Restoration, Fla. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., Basin Management Action Plan for the Implementation of Total Daily Maximum Loads for Nutrients Adopted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the Santa Fe River Basin 10 (2012), available at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/docs/bmap/sfr-nutrient-bmap-final.pdf.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Fla. Stat. § 403.067(7)(c) 3 (2012) (emphasis added).

[iv] Id.

[v] Fla. Stat § 403.067(7)(c) 2 (2012).

[vi] Fla. Admin. Code Ann. 5M-14.001 (2012).

[vii] Dep’t of Agric. and Consumer Servs., Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices for Florida Equine Operations 11 (2011), available at https://www.flrules.org/Gateway/reference.asp?No=Ref-00772.

[viii] R. Mylavarapu, et al., UF/IFAS Standardized Fertilization Recommendations for Agronomic Crops, SL-129 (2009), available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/SS163.

[ix] Fla. Admin. Code Ann. 5M-14.003 (2012).

[x] Kate Shuttleworth, Agreement Entitles Whanganui River to Legal Identity, New Zealand Herald, Aug. 30, 2012, available at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10830586 (quoting Christopher Finlayson).

[xi] Natalia Greene, The First Successful Case of the Rights of Nature Implementation in Ecuador, http://therightsofnature.org/first-ron-case-ecuador/ (last visited Nov. 16, 2012); Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador Oct. 20, 2008, art. 71, available at http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Ecuador/english08.html.




CEJ co-hosts Rights of Nature sessions at World Social Forum in Canada

On August 11, 2016, CEJ co-hosted two sessions at the World Social Forum in Montreal.


CEJ, as a member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature,  joined other prominent advocates of the Rights of Nature movement on Wednesday.

The two events, entitled "A World in which Nature has Rights," and "Rights of Nature Forum," explored global movements aimed at creating a new legal framework that extends legal standing to nature. Here's an abbreviated overview:


The first session began with an opening prayer from guest Indigenous Leaders. Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN then provided the full room of attendees with an overview of the Rights of Nature movement.


Nati Greene of Ecuador followed, giving a hopeful yet realistic account of what the past few years have been like in Ecuador (since the adoption of rights of nature into their constitution). She explained that now people can prosecute those who kill panthers and pollute streams. She told the room about a lawyer who got into a boat and sailed out to serve fishermen who were shark finning. However, she also discussed the realities of a rights-based system as well; that the fight is not over once the rights are recognized. Rights are something that must continually be asserted and defended against.  She discussed the importance of the International Tribunals in spreading this awareness and how successful GARN’s three previous tribunals have been.

We are 70% water and Earth is 70% water. We are nature.
— Nati Greene

Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network then spoke from the indigenous perspective. He brought with him the symbolic braided sweet grass. This beautiful plant is used in prayer and as medicine. However, it is getting harder and harder to find in the United States. Tom explained that they now acquire it from their relatives in Canada, but he wonders how much longer it will be available there as well.

Our very own Margaret Stewart, Esq., Manager of our Programs and Operations, then discussed the practical application of rights of nature as it pertains to our current legal systems. She explained the problems with the current environmental regulatory system and used case studies from Pennsylvania and Florida to show how significant establishing legal standing for nature is. She discussed different legal theories that have started us down the road to a rights-based system, such as the public trust doctrine and the precautionary principle, but explained how formal, legal adoption of rights-based policies will address the lack of standing issue currently in our system.

Manari Ushigua, a Sápara leader, then discussed his people's experience in the Amazonian Rainforest of Ecuador. He shared how they live in harmony with Earth and how over-consumption and over-extraction are affecting that harmony.  He pointed out that Mother Earth will persevere and will survive whatever we do to her--she just may not include us in that survival.


Lastly, Pablo Salon explained that we must be fighting against anthropocentrism.  He also alluded to an interesting correlation between how we treat nature and how we treat women in society.

When discussing his work in attempting to prevent a mega-dam from being built in Bolivia, he conveyed the importance of grassroots efforts and how laws are only one piece of the puzzle. In Bolivia, he said, he has not experienced much success with relying solely on written laws. Instead, he said,  large grassroots movements are needed to support these changes.

The first forum ended with a lively discussion between the attendees and the panelists. The topics ranged from media attention around the tribunals, to concerns with the “rights based” approach, to strategic approaches to bring these concepts to local communities.

In the second session, the panelists primarily reiterated their earlier thoughts to a whole new, packed audience.

However, this time Maude Barlow, Canadian author and National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, joined the panel. She discussed the shortcomings in Canada’s water policies and the need to change to how we approach such regulations. She explained that she has spent many years fighting for people’s right to clean water. However, once that was adopted by the United Nations, she has since shifted her focus to the intrinsic rights of the water itself. Her experience has shown her that these two things go hand-in-hand--human rights and rights of nature.  As she stated, we need to stop worrying about treating water and start worrying about protecting it from the start.

The discussion that followed was just as lively and enthusiastic as the first. The attendees asked about additional rights of nature success stories and how to begin this fight (i.e. with other citizens, with government officials, on the local, state, or federal level?). As our team member, Margaret Stewart, answered, it really is all the above. Attaining rights of nature policies will ultimately be a multifaceted approach that will require both formal adoption of laws and governance systems, but also grassroots support to ensure that those rights are recognized and enforced.  


What's going on with solar in Florida?

What's going on with solar energy policy in Florida?

First, what is solar energy?

Solar energy is considered one of the cleanest and most abundant forms of energy available. Solar technology directly converts sunlight to electricity.


Solar energy is plentiful, clean, reliable and efficient.  CEJ cares about solar policy because it is smart for the State, smart for the planet, smart for the economy and one step closer to addressing, through policy, how people live responsibly on Earth.

sunshine state.png

Florida ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but all the way down at 14th for actual solar installed.

Tapping into that potential would great, but there are some boundaries that solar has to get through to flourish in The Sunshine State.


There will be two very different solar amendments on the ballot this year, one in August and one in November.




The first is Amendment 4, which we will see on the August primary ballot. This amendment will address one of the barriers facing solar growth.

This could encourage the development of solar business in Florida, encourage the use and installation of solar energy devices, create jobs, and bring diversity to the State’s energy grid—it’s good for business and it's good for homeowners, it’s good for the economic climate-- and well, for our actual climate.  


Overall, this is a smart step in renewable energy policy in Florida.


Floridians will see another solar related amendment on the November ballot. The “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” or Amendment 1.  

This amendment is much different. What does it do? It's constitutionalizing the "status quo," --the current status of solar energy policy.

More notably, Amendment 1 constitutionalizes the right for State and local governments to regulate solar power, as they do now.  

The Utility backed proposal does not immediately expand consumer choice, or create a competitive marketplace.

In a 4-3 approval of the ballot language, Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente delivered a powerful dissent calling this amendment a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

PARIENTE, J., dissenting.

Let the pro-solar energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo. The ballot title is affirmatively misleading by its focus on “Solar Energy Choice,” when no real choice exists for those who favor expansion of solar energy.
— Justice Barbara Pariente, dissenting


In a footnote, she further expressed that “[d]ue to the use and definitions of certain terms within the proposed amendment, it may actually have the effect of diminishing some rights of solar energy consumers."


 There you have it—this is what’s going on with the two solar amendments in Florida in 2016.

Floridians Want Clean Water

Sign the declaration today!  CEJ is a proud member of the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration steering committee. Speak up and help us protect Florida's water for future generations of all living beings that share this common home. Visit www.wewantcleanwater.com  or CLICK HERE TO SIGN.




The Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration is a positive vision to inspire people to work together to create a new water ethic, find solutions to Florida’s water quality and quantity problems and send a clear message to our water managers that the people of Florida demand clean water.

From North Florida’s renowned freshwater springs to South Florida’s Everglades and coral reefs, our state is blessed with countless watery wonders. Today many of these wonders are dying – either choked by pollution and toxic algae or drying up because of over-consumption of water, or both. We know the problems that are facing our waters and we know that the longer we wait to fix these problems, the more expensive the fixes will be. Now is the time to act because we, our children, and our grandchildren deserve better.

The Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign is a collaborative effort driven by dozens of civic and environmental organizations from around the state. We are coming together to create a force for change – a change in the water policies of the state of Florida. By sharing ideas and resources across stakeholder lines and watersheds, we will be stronger – stronger together to command our right to clean water.

The Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration (below) is the “bottom line” for protecting Florida’s waters, wildlife and the health and livelihoods of Floridians. By gathering as many signatures as possible, we can demonstrate to our water managers that all Floridians – individuals, businesses, organizations, and elected officials – want clean water.

If you want clean water to drink… if you value the waters that have made Florida world famous… if you want to support the many businesses that depend on clean water, then join us – sign the Declaration! 


In recognition that:

Clean water is essential for healthy people and a healthy economy.

Florida water quality and quantity are inseparably linked.

Florida waters are held in public trust by the State of Florida for the benefit of its people and the maintenance of natural ecosystems.

We the undersigned hereby declare:

The people of Florida have an inalienable right to:

1. Clean drinking water whether that water is drawn from public sources or private wells.
2. Safe lakes, streams, springs, rivers, canals and coastal waters for swimming and fishing.
3. Protection from water pollution and its effects.
4. Know the sources of pollution that threaten Florida’s waters.
5. Protection from water privatization and its effects.
6. Abundant water for drinking, fishing and recreation.

The people of Florida, the state government, and the industries that benefit from Florida’s natural resources have the responsibility to:

1. Stop pollution at its source rather than allowing it to enter our waters.
2. Protect Florida’s waters, as well as the people who depend on them, from overconsumption and privatization.
3. Protect the natural environment which is critical to the health of Florida’s people, wildlife and economy.
4. Provide clean water for future generations. 



A voice for the littlest of creatures

“[W]e are beginning to discover that pollution is a process that destroys wondrously subtle balances of life within the water...This heightened awareness enlarges our sense of the danger to us. But it also enlarges our empathy.”
— Christopher D. Stone, in his essay "Should Trees Have Standing?"
Photo from the Center for Biological Diversity website on the Ichetucknee Siltsnail  

Photo from the Center for Biological Diversity website on the Ichetucknee Siltsnail  

It's all interconnected, nature's web. A nuanced change in a delicate habitat can wreak havoc, and not all creatures are given the same consideration, protection, or empathy.  Even the tiniest of creatures deserve a voice, and respect for their evolutionary purpose in the interconnected web.

This week, CEJ sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imploring the agency to take positive action on the petition filed by our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity asking that the agency formally enlist Florida's Ichetucknee Siltsnail as endangered, and declare Coffee Spring as critical habitat. The agency agreed to move forward on listing the snail in 2012, but has done nothing since.

These tiny spring dwelling creatures are also known as "sand-grain" snails because of their resemblance to just that, a grain of sand. Native only to Florida--and to only one spring in Florida-- this snail is dwindling right before our eyes. It's chance of revival is slim if the U.S. doesn't act quickly to protect it's habitat, which is a mere 10 square yards of one single spring, Coffee Spring, in Ichetucknee Springs, Suwanee County, Florida. 

Yes, Ichetucknee Springs is a State Park, but this public and cherished location isn't protecting the snail.  Ecosystems aren't bound by mapped park lines, and unfortunately neither is fertilizer runoff.  As springs and watersheds are becoming increasingly uninhabitable for many native species, many species, like the siltsnail, are under severe threat of extinction.

Our Staff Attorney, Rob Williams,  authored the letter to provide further information regarding the threats facing the Ichetucknee Siltsnail which are set forth in the excellent report prepared by Gary L. Warren and Jennifer Bernatis for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, "Status of the Ichetucknee Siltsnail (Floridobia mica) in Coffee Spring, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Suwannee County, Florida, November 2015." 

As the report notes, one of the threats to the snail's habitat is increasing groundwater nitrate levels in the Ichetucknee watershed. Nitrate levels have increased dramatically in the springs of the Ichetucknee River complex as shown in the following graphs prepared by the Florida Springs Institute:

As evidenced in the above charts, the nitrate levels in the springs are now 16 times greater than the historical level.

In 2012, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection adopted a Basin Management Action Plan ("BMAP") to reduce nitrate pollution in the Santa Fe River Basin which includes the Ichetucknee River and associated springs.  DEP's BMAP is an inadequate regulatory mechanism for protecting the snail's habitat. The BMAP itself states that "the TMDLs established for this basin will not be achieved for several decades." "Specifically, nutrient reductions resulting from implementation of agricultural BMPs are estimated to require at least 10 years to be measurable in the Santa Fe River" (emphasis added). This prediction was born out by a 2013 Progress Report released in April of 2014 which concluded that "there has been a slight increase in nitrate +nitrate concentration in the Santa Fe River over the period of 2009 through 2013."

Low water flows combined with high nitrate levels can easily alter the delicate ecological balance in the snail's habitat.

There is no question that under the five listing factors of the Endangered Species Act, protecting the Ichetucknee Siltsnail is warranted. We ask that the Service act promptly to protect this species and designate Coffee Springs as critical habitat in order to ensure its long-term survival. That's what we're asking for now.

But, the continuous fight to save each creature from near extinction begs the question: why do we let it get this far? Our current regulatory systems are clearly failing.  So we ask, what would this world look like ecologically if the smallest of creatures had a louder voice? If they had a right to flourish, to exist?  What if these creatures were awarded true, just, legal consideration? What if humanity demanded that nature's ecological integrity be recognized, and given legal standing in its own right? Perhaps, then, the Ichetucknee Siltsnail wouldn't be in a precarious position. Higher nitrate levels is only one of the reasons the Siltsnail is barely holding on. The devastation of Florida's springs should make everyone scared, and everyone empathetic--because ultimately, it's all connected. This habitat, mankind is a part of it.





CEJ Leadership Transitions

This marks a poignant and exciting time of transition for CEJ. As we say farewell to our Founder and Director of 10 years, Sister Pat,  we send her forward in her role as Prioress-Elect for her Adrian Dominican Sisters’ community with profound appreciation for all that she has done for CEJ and the natural communities that sustain us.


It is also a moment of great excitement as we announce that after an international search, Traci Deen, Esq. has accepted the offer to move into the role.


Adding to CEJ’s strength is Margaret Stewart, Esq., who serves as the Center’s Manager of Programs & Operations. We are so happy to have her with us.

More on the members of CEJ's Leadership team here!


Additionally, we are also happy to introduce the 2016-17 CEJ Advisory Board. We are thrilled they have agreed to serve. Each one brings unique experience, wisdom, and perspective that will guide CEJ into it's future. Meet our Advisory Board here!


2016-2017 CEJ Advisory Board Members

Judith Koons, Esq., Chair
Sr. Patricia Siemen, Director Emeritus
Clay Henderson, Esq.
Jim Draper
Josie Balzac, Esq.
Jane Durocher, Esq.
Pamela Rathbone, Esq.
Francheska Markus, Esq.
Lucinda Merritt (not pictured below)
William Ward, Esq.
Kevin Leske, Esq.



CEJ is standing strong as it transitions with new leadership. Thank you for all of your support in the past, presently, and into the future.

-The CEJ Team

An e-mail from Thomas Berry & Sister Pat's goodbye

On Sister Pat's last day in the CEJ office, she shared with us this wonderful and inspiring e-mail she had received in 2007 after founding the Center, from Thomas Berry.  

As today is my last day at CEJ I thought it appropriate to share an email I received from Thomas Berry back in January 2007 as CEJ was just getting started. He says, “If there is any single act in America that could bring about an integral Earth community, it is, I believe this legal recognition of the rights of all beings throughout the Earth. The term “rights” being defined as giving every being its due, it follows clearly that rights are qualitatively different.”
This is my continued hope for CEJ’s work into the future as well. It has been a privilege to work with so many creative and committed colleagues. May Earth and all her beings and expressions thrive.
— Sr. Pat Siemen


Sharing this article written about the film screening we co-hosted on 5/10/16 of the documentary film "The Forgotten Coast,"- article written by Kassy Holmes and originally posted here: https://thefloridasuburbanwild.com/2016/05/18/keepfloridawild/


Posted by Kassy Holmes on May 18, 2016May 18, 2016

Last week, I attended a screening at the Orlando Science Center of The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Floridaa documentary chronicling the 70-day journey of a small expedition team as they traversed 1,000 miles across Florida’s wilderness, from the Everglades to the Florida-Alabama border. The team – biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmit and photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr.- sought to follow in the footsteps of the Sunshine State’s most iconic animals, including black bears, bobcats and manatees, in an effort to learn more about wildlife corridors and the importance of connecting and protecting wild places in Florida. While the expedition team is inherently crucial to the story of this wilderness adventure and their journey is the key perspective through which we, as an audience, learn of the challenges and wonders of Florida’s wilderness, they are not the most important characters of this tale. The main protagonist is most certainly Florida –  its landscapes of swamps, marshes, springs, rivers, and forests, ranging from eerie to angelic, that are the backdrop for the story and the setting for many of our lives, is the crucial leading lady.

Although the film is only one hour long, it transports viewers across a spellbinding array of Florida ecosystems. We watch the crew as they meander along the Withlacoochee River, through Chassahowitzka Springs, and Crystal River’s Three Sisters Springs where herds of manatees often congregate to stay warm on cold days, causing a magnificent scene.

They continue on to Goethe State Park and follow in the pawsteps of bobcats that roam through the Big Bend Region. Then onto the Apalachicola River, Wewahitchka and the Dead Lakes Region – an area that formed when waters flooded a low-lying cypress swamp resulting in a mystifying landscape of cypress trees which poke out from the water’s surface. A site that the documentary team noted is unlike any other landscape in Florida. Their journey then continues through Econfina Creek Springs, the Yellow River and through Longleaf Pine Forests that house the endangered red cockaded woodpecker, a species whose habitat has been destroyed so immensely that only 3% of it’s preferred ecosystem remains.

I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of many of these places. And on a side-note, I can’t help but read the names of the many rivers and ecosystems explored  in this film that were once inhabited by Native Americans, the Seminoles in particular, and not think about our state’s (and our nation’s) unfortunate past. The importance of understanding the complete history of these wild places – and not just their ecological significance – is not lost on me. The Withalocoochee River, as an example, was the site of the aptly named ‘Battle of Withlacoochee’  in 1835, a standoff between the Seminoles and federal militia which ultimately constituted the start of a 7-year long conflict dubbed the Second Seminole War. In addition to getting out and exploring these (or other) wild places in Florida, I also encourage everyone to spend some time researching and learning about Florida’s Native American history.

The film does an excellent job of telling the story of some of Florida’s most fascinating natural places, while also highlighting some of the challenges we face. A local oyster fisherman in the Apalachicola bay spoke of a steep decline in oyster harvesting and the importance of preserving the integrity of local rivers, so that the delicate balance of fresh and salt water needed to support oysters is sustained. Another gentleman spoke of watching the tree cover around his home diminish as sea levels have risen over the past decade, another unnerving indicator of the impacts of climate change we are already experiencing, and those that have yet to come.

The film also showed clear evidence of gaps within Florida’s wildlife corridors and  highlighted the need to connect these gaps so that animals can travel safely. These are species whose lives have already been devastatingly impacted by human development. Their habitats have been destroyed and their daily existence threatened by us, our boats, our cars and our pollution. In the very least, they deserve a way to safely navigate the minimal habitat they have left.

Beyond our responsibility to the wildlife of Florida, we also have a responsibility to ourselves and future generations to cherish and protect these wild places. And even with all of the damage we’ve already caused and the challenges created by population growth and suburban sprawl, it’s not too late for us to have a positive impact on Florida’s wilderness. As one of the expedition members said, “we still have an opportunity to protect the wild heart of Florida.”

And with that, I leave you with the following thought, a proclamation I heard and felt in the documentary: we must do our absolute best to keep Florida wild.

If Austin can keep itself weird, we can certainly keep Florida beautiful and wild. Get out and explore! Advocate and vote for legislation that supports wilderness conservation efforts. Support local organizations that are working on these issues and are committed to the environment. Educate yourselves and your friends. Teach your children to love and treasure our Florida wild. And don’t forget that we can all play a small role in helping to support and protect the magnificent natural world that so selflessly supports and protects us.

#KeepFloridaWild – now that’s a hashtag I could get behind. Let’s make it happen!

CEJ Co-Hosts Documentary Film Screening at Orlando Science Center

On May 10th, CEJ, along with the Florida Wildlife Corridor, the Friends of the Wekiva River, the League of Women Voters Orange County, the League of Women Voters Seminole County, the Seminole Audubon Society, the Orange County Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club Central Florida Group, hosted a film screening of the documentary film The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Florida at the Orlando Science Center.

After a social hour, almost 500 community members joined us, including several policy-makers, for two sold out showings.

Following the screening, our incoming Director, Traci Deen, moderated a panel featuring Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters, Mallory Dimmitt who is featured in the film, and Dr. Jay Exum.

The panel discussed the need for a wildlife corridor in Florida, the key areas necessary, and the Ocala-Wekiva Greenway project. The project is an important link between Ocala National Forest and the extensive state holdings along the Wekiva River. It is habitat for many rare animal species including the Florida black bear, the Florida Sand hill crane, bald eagle, Eastern indigo snake, Florida scrub jay, Sherman's fox squirrel, Florida scrub lizard, and gopher tortoise. It incorporates most of the forested wetlands along the St. John and Wekiva Rivers between Orlando and the Ocala National Forest. The Seminole site is reported to have 50-75 springs within its boundary. The Wekiva-Ocala Connector site would provide a wildlife movement corridor between the Ocala National Forest and the other portions of the project along the Wekiva River.

The film, the Forgotten Coast, is truly remarkable. Following in the footsteps of a wandering Florida black bear, three friends leave civilization and become immersed in a vast and unexplored wildlife corridor stretching from the Everglades to the Florida-Alabama border. The rugged thousand-mile journey by foot, paddle, and bike traverses Florida’s Forgotten Coast – a wilderness that has the potential to transform the way we see the natural world.

We were so pleased to partner with outstanding co-sponsors, and share the film with the community. Everyone at CEJ hopes the film inspires you, as it inspired us. For more information on the film, visit: www.thefloridawildlifecorridor.org

Article in Orlando Sentinel: "Sister Pat, Spiritual and Legal Fighter for Environment, Retiring"

We want to share this article published in the Orlando Sentinel on May 7th, 2016, by journalist Kevin Spear, who interviewed our outgoing Director. Don't let it's title fool you-- Sr. Pat is far from retiring, but she is taking On a new role as Prioress of her Congregation in Adrian Michigan in July.

How do we change our way of being and our way of thinking so that we actually experience ourselves as a part of the rest of the web of life?
— Sr. Pat Siemen

Among many kinds of Florida environmentalists, from springs defenders to solar advocates, there is Sister Pat, a specialist in intellectual, moral, spiritual and legal aspects of fighting to keep the state green.

Patricia Siemen, 67, is a lawyer, Dominican sister and director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University's law school in Orlando.

She recently was elected as president of her congregation in Michigan and is resigning from the center, which she founded a decade ago.

Sister Pat spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the good, bad and hopeful in Florida's environment.

What makes you optimistic about Florida's environment?

I am optimistic about collaboration with different environmental groups, including the Florida Conservation Coalition and Floridians' Clean Water Declaration Campaign. This moves us beyond having just Sierra Club issues versus Friends of the Wekiva versus Audubon versus the springs groups. This unified front is needed given dire concerns in Florida.

What does CEJ bring to that collaboration?

The mission for Center for Earth Jurisprudence is to advance policies and laws from a nature perspective. We do that through education, including legal education, training future lawyers to at least consider this perspective in whatever area of practice they go into. It's also community education, showing up at public events. Whenever I speak publicly I often use the language of the inherent rights of nature to exist and flourish and fulfill its purpose and for the rest of us to live in harmony and balance with that. We also show up to do advocacy, whether most recently protection of Florida springs, and certainly we were engaged in trying to stop the bear hunt. We'll continue to work against fracking and engage in Florida's 2017 constitutional-revision process to advocate for protecting healthy ecosystems.

What worries you most?

Unlimited growth. We no longer have the Department of Community Affairs to provide support to local governments to give them backbone and protection to control growth. We have an increasing population in a fragile environment and an attitude that does not seem to recognize that Earth has restraints and certain capacities. At the same time, we have climate change upon us.

Unlimited growth doesn't sound as provoking as dead bears or dirty springs.

So many people are very good people who are so well intentioned and who would be the first ones to respond if there was some kind of calamity or natural disaster with their neighbors. But we don't see the nonhuman members of the community as our neighbors. We are asleep at the wheel when it comes to a lot of environmental issues because they seem not to be affecting us directly and right now.

Is part of Florida's problem that most residents aren't from the state?

Many people come in the later years of their life, having already faced a lot of challenges in their lives. They don't want to have to be bothered to be engaged. I don't know if I have a solution for that. Personally I would like to close the doors to the flood of retirees coming to Florida.

What environmental issue has trended in a positive direction?

I'm always a woman of hope, and my hope lies in the kind of building of relationships, collaboration and partnering among more and more people who are concerned, activists, artists and communicators. I think resilience and sustainability will come from local communities who network with each other and not just stand alone.

Speaking of an important factor that's not local, grade Barack Obama.

Oh my. He's a man caught in a system that politically marginalized him from his first day in office. Nevertheless, as for environmental issues, President Obama deserves high marks. He has exercised leadership on the most critical environmental issue facing the world: climate change. He raised the standards for eliminating air pollutants and he ruled in favor of killing the Keystone XXL pipeline, a symbolic victory for a huge number of environmentalists.

What question would you ask the director of CEJ?

How do we change our way of being and our way of thinking so that we actually experience ourselves as a part of the rest of the web of life?