Legislative Assistance

What is the Legislative Assistance Working Group?

The Legislative Assistance Working Group of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature was created in September 2010.

The purpose of the Working Group is to put in place enforceable legal structures which recognize the Rights of Nature at community, sub-national, and national levels of government around the world.

The Working Group will provide assistance to organizations, governments, and communities striving to drive Rights of Nature legislative frameworks into binding law.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which is leading the Working Group, has assisted communities and governments in the United States to draft laws recognizing the Rights of Nature. In Ecuador, CELDF consulted with delegates to the 2008 Constitutional Assembly who drafted the Articles to include  Rights of Nature in the first national/plurinational Constitution in the world.

To contact the Working Group, send a message at Want to Learn more below.

By most every measure, the environment today is in worse shape than when the major U.S. environmental laws were adopted over thirty years ago. Since then, countries around the world have sought to replicate these laws. Yet, species decline worldwide is increasing exponentially, global warming is far more accelerated than previously believed, deforestation continues unabated around the world, and overfishing in the world’s oceans is pushing many fisheries to collapse.

These laws – including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and similar state laws – legalize environmental harms by regulating how much pollution or destruction of nature can occur under law. Rather than preventing pollution and environmental destruction, these laws instead codify it. In addition, under commonly understood terms of preemption, once these activities are legalized by federal or state governments, local governments are prohibited from banning them.

In the U.S., title to property carries with it the legal authority to destroy the natural communities and ecosystems that depend upon that property for survival. In fact, environmental laws in the U.S. were passed under the authority of the Commerce Clause, which grants exclusive authority over “interstate commerce” to Congress.

Treating nature as commerce has meant that existing environmental law frameworks in the U.S. – and around much of the world – are anchored in the concept of nature as property.

As ecological crises multiply, people, communities, and governments are coming to recognize that environmental protection cannot be attained under a structure of law that treats natural communities and ecosystems as property.

The Rights of Nature laws – adopted in the U.S. and Ecuador – expand the body of rights to include nature, thus recognizing nature as a subject of rights.

Those laws recognize that ecosystems possess an inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that people and communities possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of ecosystems. In addition, these laws require governments to remedy violations of ecosystem rights.

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