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Conservation Law Foundation


Conservation Law Foundation

Conservation Law Foundation
Abbreviation CLF
Formation 1966
Purpose Clean Energy
Climate Change
Clean Water
Healthy Forests
Smart Growth
President John Kassel
Compensation: $164,000 per year
Budget FY2004: $3.5m in grants & donations

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is an environmental advocacy organization based in New England. Since 1966, CLF's mission has been to advocate on behalf of the region's environment and its communities. CLF's advocacy work takes place in four program areas: Clean Energy & Climate Change, Clean Water & Healthy Forests, Healthy Oceans and Smart Growth. CLF works to promote renewable energy and fight air and water pollution; build healthy fishing communities and protect marine habitat; fight sprawl, promote public transit and defend public health. Conservation Law Foundation is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Structure and goals

With offices in nearly all New England states (Connecticut being the only exception), CLF works to solve the most significant environmental problems that threaten New England. CLF’s strategies of advocacy concentrate on areas of law, public policy, economics, and science. Employing a staff of attorneys, CLF’s efforts of environmental protection often include the use of lawsuits, petitions, motions, and affidavits. Through these strategies, CLF seeks to both support local initiatives and promote government accountability and transparency. As a result, CLF works to bring local environmental concerns to the attention of legislators and policymakers, and serve as a resource for communicating these concerns throughout the region.

Notable achievements

Originally founded in 1966 to stop the development of ski slopes on Massachusett's highest peak, Mount Greylock, CLF expanded its advocacy to address both environmental and community issues in all six New England states.

Traditional environmental advocacy

In 1977, the organization successfully fought the expansion plans for a federal divided highway through Franconia Notch, in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Since that time, CLF's legal advocacy has focused on several natural resources cases, including the cleanup of Lake Champlain (by challenging state stormwater permits), the prevention of overfishing of groundfish--cod, haddock, and flounder--off the coast of New England (resulting in a settlement requiring the National Marine Fisheries Service to produce a management plan to eliminate overfishing), and the protection of the Vermont black bear habitat (by obtaining a federal court injunction halting destructive U.S. logging practices in southern Vermont's fragile Lamb Brook wilderness area, marking the first time an environmental group in the Northeast successfully challenges the U.S. Forest Service's clear-cutting policies).

Cleanup of Boston Harbor

In 1983, the CLF initiated a suit against the Metropolitan District Commission (a division of the government of the state of Massachusetts) and the Environmental Protection Agency. The result of this and other litigation, including that of the City of Quincy, was to compel the state to comply with federal environmental laws, and to build appropriate facilities to properly treat sewage discharged into Boston Harbor, and establish workable governmental mechanisms to finance the new facilities and pay for their continuing operations. The formation of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), taking over the water facilities properties, operations and legal authority previously held by the Metropolitan District commission, is one byproduct of the litigation. The legal battle was most intense from 1983 into the 1990s.[1]

Community and transportation advocacy

Believing cities and towns to be as important environmental constituencies as forests and rivers, CLF advocated for increased light rail and public transportation options in Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine. In a pre-suit settlement with CLF, state highway officials in Massachusetts agreed to implement measures to reduce air pollution, including rail and transit improvements, as part of Boston’s Central Artery project (also known as the Big Dig).

Additionally, CLF advocated for state laws to protect children from the threat of lead poisoning. In 1988, following a three-year campaign by CLF, Massachusetts passed the nation’s toughest law to protect its citizens, especially children, from lead poisoning.

Energy advocacy

One of the cornerstones of CLF's modern advocacy is pushing states to invest in energy sources that have less propensity for pollution. In 1983, CLF took credit for the decision by the Public Service Company of New Hampshire, the largest electric company in the state, to abandon its plans for a second nuclear unit at Seabrook Nuclear Power Station after CLF testimony demonstrates that the construction of the facility would not make financial sense.

Later, in 2003, CLF claimed victory when the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection finalized a schedule requiring the Salem Harbor and Brayton Point coal-fired power plants to significantly reduce harmful emissions and comply with the "Filthy Five" regulations.

Recently, CLF has been lending its advocacy practices to supporting the development of a for-profit, offshore wind farm, known as Cape Wind.

Recent and current projects

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Through the advocacy of CLF and other envronmental organizations, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has been instrumental in unifying many of New England's efforts to curb global warming pollution. RGGI takes effect in 2009, and is designed to reduce carbon dioxide pollution to a level 10 percent below current emissions by 2019. In particular, New England's plan will establish a market-based program that rewards smart companies for outperforming the new pollution limits and lowers overall compliance costs.


CLF has been the target of accusations that its advocacy reflects an anti-development bias. For example, in Vermont, its advocates have been locked in a dispute to prevent the construction of a Lowe's Home Center, although the two parties recently reached a landmark settlement that will allow construction to go forward once regulators in the Douglas Administration approve the necessary permits. As part of the agreement, the two sides planned to work together collaboratively on future Lowe's development in the state and Lowe's will install state of the art pollution control measures to better protect and improve water quality in Potash Brook watershed and Lake Champlain. CLF, along with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and Vermont Smartgrowth Collaborative, has also succeeded in stalling the construction of the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway, because the project was based on flawed and outdated environmental analysis. The administration of Vermont Governor Jim Douglas has noted that "CLF has been the loyal obstructionist to many projects in the state, without regard to compromise."[2]

Senator John H. Chafee Environmental Leadership Award

The Senator John H. Chafee Environmental Leadership Award was created to honor the late Rhode Island Senator John H. Chafee, who provided a model of environmental leadership during his years of public service. CLF notes that its commitment to pursuing non-partisan solutions to complex environmental problems is in the spirit of Senator Chafee’s lifetime dedication to tackling the toughest environmental challenges facing New England and the nation.

Past honorees

2004 - Harold Ward (professor, Brown University)

2002 - Bruce Babbitt (former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior)

2001 - Donella Meadows (author, environmentalist)

See also

  • A-CHAMP (Advocates for Children's Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning) (in the US)
  • Environmental Law Service (ELS) (a Czech non-governmental organization of lawyers)


  1. ^ Early History of CLF's Fight to Cleanup Boston Harbor 1983-1986 (as chronicled in CLF's quarterly newsletter.) Retrieved January 20, 2007. Conservation Law Foundation's comprehensive timeline of the civil court case. (via
  2. ^ Burlington Free | Living

External links

  • Conservation Law Foundation Home Page
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