Seeks to place severe restrictions on how public land may be used
Earthjustice describes itself as a nonprofit "law firm for the environment" that works through the courts to "safeguard public lands, national forests, parks, and wilderness areas; to reduce air and water pollution; to prevent toxic contamination; and to preserve endangered species and wildlife habitat." The organization's professed raison d'etre is: "Because the earth needs a good lawyer."
Earthjustice was founded as the "Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund" (SCLDF) in 1971 by Don Harris and Fred Fisher, two volunteer attorneys for the Sierra Club legal committee. The fledgling organization was fully independent from the Sierra Club, with its own Board of Trustees, staff, and contributors. SCLDF adopted the name “Earthjustice” in 1997, “to better reflect our role as a legal advocate for not just the Sierra Club, but hundreds of others clients as well.” Earthjustice now has regional offices in Montana, Colorado, Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington State, and Washington, DC. The group also runs a law clinic at Stanford University, where it "offers students an opportunity to provide legal and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations on a variety of environmental issues …”
Earthjustice's "Responsible Energy" campaign litigates against efforts to extract oil, gas, and coal from U.S. public lands. In November 2004, Earthjustice joined a coalition of environmental activist groups (including the Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society) opposing any future U.S. House and Senate approval of oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). According to Earthjustice, "The administration of George W. Bush has been in a class by itself. It is not only hostile to efforts to protect the environment, but also staffed by a host of people who worked -- and in all likelihood will again work -- as lobbyists, lawyers, and employees of the very industries they are supposed to regulate." By contrast, Earthjustice lauded former President Bill Clinton -- chiefly for his Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which sought to restrict the construction of roads on public land. The group also praised Clinton for establishing new national monuments, including the Canyon of the Ancients in Colorado and the Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona. Earthjustice did not criticize Clinton’s support for the 1995 "Salvage Logging Rider," a logging initiative that sought to double the amount of logging done on U.S. national forest land by excusing the sale of timber from environmental regulatory laws.
Earthjustice's "Judging the Environment" campaign seeks to derail conservative judicial appointments by Republican Presidents, on the theory that such appointees are insensitive to environmental protection issues. A chief target of “Judging the Environment” was William Myers, nominated by President Bush in 2004 to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Earthjustice dubbed Myers "the most anti-environmental nominee in history." Like Alliance for Justice and People for The American Way, Earthjustice objected to the appointment of Myers on grounds that he had worked as a lobbyist for mining and cattle interests in the Western United States. Myers' appointment was eventually blocked by the filibuster of Democratic senators.
Among Earthjustice's additional campaigns are the following: (a) the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (RACR), which seeks "to preserve nearly 60 million acres of wild forests that belong to every one of us"; (b) the Northwest Forest Plan, which Earthjustice says "has protected 24 million acres of public land from relentless clearcut logging practices" since 1994; (c) the Protecting Farmworkers From Toxic Pesticides initiative, which charges that "dangerous pesticides … disproportionately threaten the health of migrant and seasonal farmworkers"; and (d) the Bush Administration Rollbacks Review, which charges that President Bush "is carrying on an unprecedented campaign to destroy the environmental laws, regulations, and policies of this country -- and the resources they are supposed to protect."