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Media Release: Lake Erie and Local Residents File Court Motions to Defend Rights of Lake – Ind

Mar 19, 2019


CONTACT: CELDF Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer 440-552-6774

Toledoans for Safe Water Markie Miller, Toledo Community Organizer 419-665-3743   

TOLEDO, OH:  Today, Lake Erie filed a motion to intervene in federal court to defend its legal rights under a law adopted by the people of Toledo, Ohio, on February 26.

Lake Erie filed a Motion to Intervene in the lawsuit Drewes Farm Partnership v. City of Toledo.  The lawsuit, seeking to overturn the legal rights of Lake Erie, was filed by a large corporate law firm in Columbus less than 24 hours after the Lake Erie Bill of Rights was adopted.

The Motion to Intervene, if granted, would permit Lake Erie to become a party to the lawsuit and directly defend its own rights, now recognized in the Toledo City Charter, to “exist, thrive, and naturally evolve.”

Toledoans for Safe Water (TSW), the grassroots group that proposed the law, joined Lake Erie in filing the motion to become an intervening party. They also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted TSW in drafting the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and is representing Lake Erie and TSW in the motions.

In securing legal rights of Lake Erie, the people of Toledo join the growing “rights of nature” movement.  Today, there are more than three dozen communities across the U.S. that have enacted rights-based laws that include provisions for rights of nature. As well, rights of nature laws and court decisions are in place in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, India, with tribal nations, and elsewhere. The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is the first rights of nature law in the United States that specifically recognizes the rights of a distinct ecosystem to exist, flourish, and evolve.

“The people of Toledo proposed and passed the law, following years of inaction by government and industry to take meaningful steps to restore and protect Lake Erie.  We recognized the need to elevate the protection of Lake Erie by securing its legal rights, moving beyond conventional environmental laws that permit pollution of the lake and deny the people any ability to protect it,” stated Crystal Jankowski of TSW.

“We proudly join with Lake Erie, and the people of Toledo, to defend the lake’s rights against efforts to undermine them,” stated Terry Lodge, the attorney who filed the intervention documents.

Explained Markie Miller of TSW, “If you’re going to court to try to overturn the legal rights of the lake, that means either you don’t support Lake Erie’s right to exist and thrive, or you want to conduct environmentally harmful activities that will violate those rights.”

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

About Toledoans for Safe Water

Toledoans for Safe Water is a grassroots organization in the Toledo area Working to establish a Bill of Rights to protect Lake Erie and the communities that rely on its health and viability.


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