Watershed Rights Conference

For anyone who wants to change the world, right in their own backyard.

The rights of nature and the rights of communities are inextricably linked. Find out how you can protect ecosystems throughout the world, starting with your own community. Join us for a weekend of training in a rights-based approach to protecting the natural world and discussions about what it means for us to recognize the legal rights of nature.

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About the Conference

With the federal government rolling back environmental protections now is the time to refocus strategies and efforts on the local level. Join us for a weekend of training and conversations about a rights-based approach that is gaining traction in the US and abroad. The program will include the Democracy School curriculum led by folks from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and panel discussions with scientists, writers, athletes, and native people. Our primary goals here are to broaden awareness of the rights of nature movement, understand how the structure of our legal system thwarts efforts to protect the environment, and increase the scale of efforts to implement rights-based laws.

Because the goal is to have as broad an impact as possible, we’re holding off nailing down some basics like dates and location until we find out more about who’s interested in attending, where would be best to host the event, and what organizations are excited to pitch-in and help make this thing happen. Within the next month or two we’ll be sending out a short email to solicit your feedback and suggestions in this regard.

In the meantime, please signup below, share this with your networks, and pass it along to anyone you think might be interested in attending, sponsoring, or organizing. You can read the full ‘abstract’ below and stay current with blog posts, info, and updates, below. Easiest direct contact is email.

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Updates, related content, and more

  • Watershed Rights Conference – FAQ’s
    Watershed Rights Conference – FAQ’s

    So…why is there no date or location set yet? Put simply, because we don’t have enough data yet to determine either of those variables. One of the main goals of the conference is to have a broad impact–to spread...

  • What is this Rights of Nature thing, anyway?
    What is this Rights of Nature thing, anyway?

    It’s a fascinating, multi-faceted concept centered around the notion that the natural world should be afforded the same legal rights and protections as humans. That’s what. The notion of ascribing legal rights to Nature is a huge topic, with...


It’s been over 40 years since the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act were passed, and yet by all accounts the environment is in worse shape than it was in the 70’s. Salmon were added to the Endangered Species List in 1990–not until their populations on the West Coast had been reduced to 7% of their estimated original size. Since that time, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on restoration and conservation efforts the situation has only gotten worse. Salmon are now completely extinct in an estimated 90% of the California rivers alone in which they were believed to exist.  Erosion from over-development; pollution from industry; elimination of vital fauna such as beavers; new diseases from farmed salmon, and America’s obsession with dams have all contributed to the demise of salmon and the death of watersheds more broadly.

We know this, and yet we have been unable to stem the tide. Why?


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Because all environmental laws and regulations in the history of the environmental movement merely regulate the pollution and destruction of ecosystems. They do virtually nothing actually to prevent it, instead codifying the scope and extent to which polluters can pollute. As such, the approaches used by environmentalists over the last 40+ years are potentially the wrong tool for the job. Challenging permit applications by polluters and suing governmental agencies to uphold existing environmental regulations only invokes a system of laws fundamentally designed to protect polluters.

A new strategy is needed–one that will actually protect watersheds, preserve remaining habitat, and build a foundation on which to build a truly sustainable relationship with our surrounding ecology. We must adopt a rights-based approach to environmental protection based on new laws that recognize the fundamental and legal right of nature not just to survive but to exist with integrity alongside other legal subjects.

Just such an approach has been used across the United States and abroad by a nonprofit, environmental law firm, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), to preserve and protect local townships and their surrounding natural environment.

Join us for a rigorous training in this rights-based approach led by lawyers and activists from CELDF and the local community. Over the course of a weekend, in addition to this training, we’ll engage in active dialogue with scientists, native peoples, writers, philosophers, athletes, and artists about what it means for us as a people to recognize beings in the natural world as equal subjects before the law.

It’s time to grant Mother Nature the rights she deserves.

Find out more, get involved, and stay up to date with the latest news about the conference


For the time being, date and location are TBD. They’ll depend on when/where garners the most traction with interested participants. So sign up to weigh-in and stay up to date as the program develops. We’ll be sending out a short questionnaire in the next month or two asking for your input.

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