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USA – local laws asserting the rights of nature

Local law making for the rights of nature in the USA
Examples of local laws that assert the rights of nature in the USA
Further reading


Rights of nature laws have been created in different ways, in different jurisdictions.  In Ecuador, the Rights of Nature are enshrined in the nation's Constitution (the highest law of the land); in Bolivia, national legislation creates the Rights of Mother Earth and in New Zealand, legal personhood and legal rights have been created for ecosystems through negotiated settlements under the Treaty of Waitangi.

In the USA, another innovative approach is being taken, where local communities use local law making to assert the rights of nature and the rights of local communities to speak for and protect their local and regional ecosystems, and stop unwanted, destructive practices from being imposed on them by corporations and other levels of US Government.

One group leading the way in this approach is the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund (CELDF).  

Local law making in the USA, to assert the rights of nature and local communities

CELDF’s Community Rights work is a paradigm shift, a move away from unsustainable practices that harm communities, and a move towards local self-government.

Community Rights include environmental rights, such as the right to clean air, pure water, and healthy soil; worker rights, such as the right to living wages and equal pay for equal work; rights of nature, such as the right of ecosystems to flourish and evolve; and democratic rights, such as the right of local community self-government, and the right to free and fair elections.

CELDF work with communities that are unwilling to be oppressed by an unjust structure of law that is created by, and favors, the largest economic powers. Their approach recognizes, secures, and protects the rights of all those living within a community.

Examples of local laws that assert the rights of nature

The following material is reproduced, with permission, from CELDF's website -

CELDF provides a variety of legal and organizing services to communities, local organizations, and municipal governments.

This includes assistance with drafting local laws, ordinances, and Home Rule Charters; legal research; education and training on how the current structure of law elevates corporate “rights” over the rights of people, workers, communities, and nature; and developing strategies for advancing local democratic and environmental rights.

CELDF developed the legal framework – known as the Community Bill of Rights – which communities across the U.S. are now advancing into law to secure community and nature’s rights, address corporate “rights” and state preemption, and protect communities from threats such as GMOs, pipelines, fracking, and pesticides.

For examples of local laws that assert the rights of nature, please click here for a law from Coos County and click here for a law from Grant County, Pennsylvania

Further reading

Visit the CELDF website -

Also visit the website of a Californian based organisation - 'Movement Rights'

Thomas Linzey, 2009 "Be the Change: How to get what you want in your community"