Help me find an organization interested in boring land conservation
January 26, 2017 1:11 PM   Subscribe

For a number of reasons, I need to find the most environmentally-protecting way to interpret laws and norms around the protection of a specific vulnerable (but not high profile) area. Help me find local law-savvy environmentalists!

This is in the PNW (WA state) and while I could probably compensate someone for their time it wouldn't be like, big money, so thus why I am seeking an environmental organization with awareness of the law rather than an environmental lawyer.
posted by corb to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You really need to provide more details, state and government agencies would be the ones reviewing development impacts etc, while land trusts deal with buying land or easements mostly. Then some big non profits will deal with suing agencies over permits or regulations if it comes to that. "Environmentalists" try to influence policy and public actions, which is likely not what you want here.

But if someone is violating a regulation or you have a question about a regulation just call the agency in charge and ask. If you provide more information about what the threat is and what you want to see done then I'm sure you'll get more specific answers.
posted by fshgrl at 1:28 PM on January 26, 2017

The group that immediately springs to mind is The Trust For Public Land, which provides a whole array of services for municipal governments and community groups around conservation. According to their web site they have offices in Seattle and Wenatchee.
posted by firechicago at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, that's helpful! Essentially, we are talking about a piece of land that has some wetlands and other protected habitat on it. My assumption - which may be totally flawed, please feel free to check me as this isn't an area I know much about - was that the state and government agencies would be interpreting their regulations in the most developer-friendly way, "Wink-wink the regulations say this but I'm not going to go digging" whereas I'm trying to find a "If you're taking these regulations about not building where they may damage wetlands seriously, here are the ecological impacts you need to consider and here are the things you need to not do."
posted by corb at 2:15 PM on January 26, 2017

Uh no, the state and government agencies do not do a wink wink with the developer. They are the No. 1 line of protection for wetlands and take it quite seriously, I assure you. For wetlands the relevant agency would be the Army Corps of Engineers. Anyone developing on or near wetlands is going to take those regulations seriously and if they are spending any kind of money will have hired a firm to outline exactly how they plan to meet them. While developing as much land as they possibly can, of course, but the only way to stop that is to buy the land yourself typically.

It's still not clear what you want t do here. If someone is developing the land they will have already been in touch with the relevant agencies unless they are dumb enough to think they can do it without permits. In which case the best thing you can do is drop a dime to your local Corps office and the township/ county.

If someone is looking to go over and above the requirements and do some kind of super environmentally friendly development there are numerous agencies and consultants just dying to help out with that.
posted by fshgrl at 2:25 PM on January 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

The Nature Conservancy buys land to hold it forever in trust. I don't know how they choose what land, however.
posted by clone boulevard at 2:34 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might find EPA's Watershed Academy useful for whatever you are doing. If you are talking Seattle, there is the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. Washington state is home to one of our National Labs. I believe it is headquarted in Richland, but it has a satellite office in Sequim dealing with marine stuff. Sequim is not hugely far from Seattle. I would look into what resources they have to offer, online or otherwise.

I have had had two Environmental Law classes as part of an unfinished BS in Environmental Resource Management. One thing you will run into is that the legal system provides for a balancing of different concerns. But, yes, governmental offices are supposed to be the first line of defense and many of them do excellent work.
posted by Michele in California at 2:52 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depending on the nature of the wetlands (size, seasonality, location), your Washington State Ducks Unlimited folks may have resources, advice, and contacts. (Waterfowl hunters are generally especially terrific at conservation issues, in my experience.)
posted by rtha at 4:25 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

The US is probably different but here in NZ a landscape architect specialising in wetland / ecology would be a normal route for this type of problem - quite a bit of my work involves interpreting legal frameworks and finding ways through them - I would imagine the US is the same - Again the US may vary but here LA's have a code of ethics the core of which "seeks to reconcile human needs in harmony with the natural environment and its systems". LA's don't (generally) tend to charge lawyer-level fees.
posted by unearthed at 6:29 PM on January 26, 2017

The answer you're looking for depends on where in the state you're talking about, and what the specific resources are (property size, location, proximity to water, wetlands, etc). Location matters because different counties have different regulatory cultures and zoning/planning rules, and different areas are home to local land trusts and various conservation organizations -- not to mention the nonregulatory local conservation districts.

It also matters, of course, if it's your property you're concerned with; or, in other words, who owns the property.

Another variable in this equation is, from whom are you seeking protection for this resource/property? Other family members? The public? The state?

You might start by calling your local conservation district ( and seeking guidance from a resource technician there.

Or, PM me.
posted by slab_lizard at 9:24 PM on January 26, 2017

Nthing it depends on the state.

I have a friend who does high-level work at the Nature Conservancy (linked by another commenter earlier), and they're pretty well partnered with state and federal outfits. You should definitely give them a ring. For instance my friend worked for the federal government for a decade, before moving to the Nature Conservancy. She's not someone who judges places lightly, and she quite approves of them due precisely to their partnerships on state and local levels.

They don't just hold land in trust, btw, they also manage it with a view to conservancy of plant and wildlife diversity and health. (My friend actually manages burning programs with them for just that purpose.)
posted by fraula at 4:45 AM on January 30, 2017

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