Both the House and Senate have approved language to ban Rights of Nature enforcement.




Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer

COLUMBUS, OH:  This Sunday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is scheduled to sign off on a new state budget for 2020-2021.

Hidden within the 3,000+ page document are several paragraphs prohibiting the enforcement of a paradigm-shifting concept that has taken root in the state: legally enforceable rights for ecosystems. The budget bill comes four months after residents of Toledo passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) city charter amendment that recognizes the lake’s rights to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.”

The proposed House language reads:

“Nature or any ecosystem does not have standing to participate in or bring an action in any court of common pleas….No person, on behalf of or representing nature or an ecosystem, shall intervene in any manner.”

The state is coming out on the wrong side of history as the government tries to stop Rights of Nature, a concept that is experiencing accelerating growth around the planet.

The state is also attempting to stop Rights of Nature in court. Attorney General David Yost intervened on behalf of an agribusiness company to help overturn LEBOR. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) helped draft LEBOR and is providing legal support to defend the people’s law.

As an apparent concession to Toledo residents, who adopted LEBOR because the state was failing to protect the Lake, Governor Mike DeWine proposed his H2Ohio plan to allocate $900 million dollars to invest in the health of Ohio waterways and Lake Erie. As with all other previous plans, the money will go towards future studies and vague solutions, such as “investing in technology to combat pollution.” No concrete plan to prohibit pollution is offered.

“By attempting to ban Rights of Nature enforcement, the state has delegitimized itself,” says CELDF’s Ohio organizer, Tish O’Dell. “The people of Toledo have exposed the truth. No one is protecting the Lake. Throwing more taxpayer dollars for ‘studies’ and ‘testing’ is not fooling anyone. The state cannot claim to be the sole protector of the Lake, while simultaneously opposing the people who are trying to protect the lake, siding with polluters, and trying to ban Rights of Nature!”

“Given dire warnings about the climate crisis and ecological devastation, the state’s actions are negligent. From Ecuador to New Zealand, to communities across the U.S., Rights of Nature laws are spreading because we must change our relationship with Nature. The time is now. Rights of Nature is here, and the state cannot stop this growing tide for change,” added Ellen Mavrich, Lorain County, Ohio Community Rights Network board member.

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

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.

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