Environmental law conference concludes after weekend of events

The 3oth-annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference@@ concluded yesterday after four days of events.

PIELC is praised as the premier annual gathering for environmentalists all over the world. This year, the conference revolved around the theme “New Frontier: The Political Crossroads of Our Environmental Future.”@@

“This conference has been a great success,” Conference Co-director Alek Wipperman@@[email protected]@ said. “We’ve had a great turn out; the panels and keynotes have all gone very well, and the theme was very strong.”

Notable entries were two panels on wolves in the State of Oregon.

Recently, endangered gray wolves have become placed into the public eye with the celebrity-like status of Wolf OR-7,@@[email protected]@ whose trek across Oregon and Northern California has sparked notable interest.

Oregon Wild’s Wildlands & Wildlife Advocate, Rob Klavins@@ with ampersand[email protected]@ spoke about the implications of taking away a population of wolves from their once-native habitat.

“What we’ve discovered is when we take predators off the landscape, it has ripple effects that nobody could have ever imagined,” Klavins said. “And then in return, the landscape becomes less healthy.”

Discourse — spurred by topics like wolves in Oregon — draws attendees to the conference every year from all over the world. Nikolina Smith, the legal director for the Pennsylvania-based Citizens Coal Council,@@    and came to learn about Western coal issues.

“I was really hoping to learn some new stuff, and I definitely did that,” Smith said. “It was really great to see the different types of people that come out, like activists, citizens and lawyers.”

In addition to serving the legal community, the conference also serves the citizenry.

Jan Spencer, a local sustainable development practitioner@@ whose Eugene home has inspired other homeowners to make their property more sustainable, has been coming to the conference for 14 years. Spencer shared his developmental expertise with a packed room of eager listeners.

“This conference is about sharing ideas, but in this particular situation, it’s sharing things that are actually in motion — kinetic things that are already happening.  We’re going beyond theory. It’s actually stuff that’s on the ground,” he said.

Another frequent attendee and concerned citizen, Loretta Huston@@[email protected]@ summarized her idea of the conference’s significance.

“We’re up against the greatest paradigm shift ever on Earth, and we’re really unprepared. All the old hippies have been talking about solutions for the last forty years,” she said. “It’s like we’re drowning in data and lacking in wisdom.”

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Ryan Dutch

Ryan Dutch