The Legal Defense Fund pioneered rights-based organizing in Pennsylvania, partnering with municipal governments and community groups to adopt local laws that assert the rights of human and natural communities. Here, communities first took the bold step of prohibiting the corporatization of agriculture (factory farms), corporate waste dumping (land application of sewage sludge) and destructive corporate mineral extraction (longwall mining). Dozens of municipalities enacted local laws subordinating corporations to the governing authority of the people. And here, in 2006, Tamaqua Borough, in Schuylkill County, became the first community on earth to legally recognize the inalienable rights of natural communities and ecosystems.

Most recently, communities are under attack by gas drilling “frackers” and residents are organizing to adopt local Bills of Rights and prohibitions against corporate activities that threaten and deny those rights. The mission of asserting the right of those affected by governing decisions to be the ones who make them continues today.

Join the movement for local self-governing rights.  Contact us at

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