The Environmental Law Clinic at Gonzaga’s Law School represents Kootenai Environmental Alliance on Clean Water Act issues — currently including our efforts to clean up after the mess made by the Fernan Lake road project, and our efforts on behalf of the Spokane River. While this is a relatively new development for KEA, and while this clinic is a new incarnation at Gonzaga Law, environmental law clinics around the country are doing important work for small environmental groups like ours.
Recently, a number of law clinics have come under attack for their work, including teh nationally ranked clinic at the University of Maryland, my law school alma mater. Legislators in Maryland went after the Maryland Law School’s budget after a large poultry producer complained about the Clinic’s Clean Water Act enforcement case against the producer and its contract farmer for polluting the Chesapeake Bay. After a national outcry, the law school’s budget was restored, but the Environmental Law Clinic will be required to file a report to the legislature regarding its clients and cases.
Environmental law is a complex field, and having firsthand clinical experience is important legal training for increasingly specialized lawyers-to-be. But it is also extraordinarily valuable to groups like KEA. We wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the legal fees that can accrue in complex environmental cases, and we wouldn’t otherwise have access to young, bright, and motivated law students to work on our behalf on such complex matters. As we try to protect water quality in North Idaho, we’re glad to have Gonzaga’s clinic on our side.