The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.

Our mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

Begun as a traditional public interest law firm seeking to protect the environment, CELDF sought to protect communities from projects such as incinerators and waste dumps which cause environmental harm. Along the way, we encountered barriers put in place by both government and corporations. Such barriers included corporate constitutional “rights” and the preemptive authority of state government – both of which are used to override community decision making.

CELDF learned that no matter how hard we tried to stop projects that cause known environmental harm, our own government had worked with corporations to make sure such projects were sited.

In fact, together they had developed a structure of law which – rather than focused on protecting people, workers, communities, and the environment – was instead focused on endless growth, extraction, and development.

It is a structure that is inherently unsustainable, and has in fact, made sustainability illegal.

Thus, we recognized that whether communities were facing fracking, injection wells, factory farms, pipelines, GMOs, water extraction, or a wide range of other threats, the barriers they faced to stopping these projects – and in their place establishing sustainable energy, water, agriculture, and other systems – were the same.

Our Work Today

Today, through grassroots organizing, public education and outreach, and legal assistance, nearly 200 municipalities across the U.S. have enacted CELDF-drafted Community Rights laws which ban practices – including fracking, factory farming, sewage sludging of farmland, and water privatization – that violate the rights of people, communities and nature.

To protect those rights, the laws address the key barriers to local self-governance and sustainability – such as corporate constitutional “rights” – and has assisted the first communities in the U.S. to eliminate corporate “rights” when they interfere with Community Rights.

Further, CELDF has worked with the first U.S. communities and the first country to establish the rights of nature in law – recognizing the rights of ecosystems and natural communities to exist and thrive, and empowering people and their governments to defend and enforce these rights.

CELDF is now bringing communities and groups together to form statewide Community Rights Networks and the National Community Rights Network to drive change from the grassroots upward to the state and federal level.

This is the start of the Community Rights Movement. Join us!