Lawsuit advances one avenue for participatory Rights of Nature enforcement


CONTACT: Tish O’Dell
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Ohio Community Organizer

TOLEDO, OH: Three residents of Toledo, Ohio have presented arguments in the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals to enforce the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR), the first law in the U.S. to secure legal rights of a specific ecosystem. The arguments were in defense of a “Pro Se” lawsuit brought by the residents themselves. The lawsuit, filed last year, originates from a clause within LEBOR, which allows residents to file suit to enforce residents’ rights and those of the Lake Erie ecosystem.

In prepared remarks, later presented in court on August 5, 2020 via video conference, Toledo resident Mike Ferner pleaded for a “turn away from the depleted and deadly precedents that have brought life on Earth to the brink.”

“A century from now, if our species survives, people will undoubtedly wonder how we could possibly have defined Lake Erie, a necessity for survival, as mere property to be exploited instead of a living and life-giving body with an inherent right to be healthy,” Ferner’s statement reads.

“Residents not only passed the historic Lake Erie Bill of Rights, they exhausted all available methods within the current legal system to protect the lake. And the state continues to legalize pollution and add new protections for corporate polluters of the lake—failing in its duty to protect the lake. Something new is required to preserve life surrounding and within the imperiled lake,” said CELDF Ohio Community Organizer Tish O’Dell.

“The Rights of Nature movement is entering a new phase: enforcement,” said CELDF attorney Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin. “We salute the plaintiffs’ actions and are heartened to see residents take seriously the need for creative civilian enforcement of the Rights of Nature.”

Following the passage of Ohio Chamber of Commerce-drafted state legislation to undermine the enforcement of rights of ecosystems within the state, a federal judge in February 2020 decided to invalidate LEBOR.

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.

Additional Resources