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Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age

Thursday, April 3, 2014 | 06:10 PM

Yale Law School, Room 128 | 127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT
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Please join us Thursday, April 3, for a conversation with University of Oregon School of Law Professor Mary Wood.

Please join the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP) and the Yale Climate and Energy Institute (YCEI) on Thursday, April 3, for a conversation with Mary Wood, the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the nationally acclaimed Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at the University of Oregon School of Law.

She will be discussing her recent book, Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, which defines the frontiers of public trust law and maps out a full paradigm shift for the way government agencies manage public resources. Her talk begins at 6:10 PM in Yale Law School’s Room 128 (127 Wall Street); it is free and open to the public.

The talk, co-sponsored by YCELP and YCEI, is part of the Climate and Energy Bookshelf speaker series featuring new publications by renowned environmental policy thinkers including Brian Keane, Todd Wilkinson, and Tom Kizzia.

Mary Christina Wood is the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the nationally acclaimed Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at the University of Oregon School of Law. She founded the program, which has been ranked as one of the top ten in the country for the past several years. Professor Wood has taught environmental law for over 20 years across the subjects of property, natural resources law, public trust law, federal Indian law, public lands law, wildlife law, and hazardous waste law. She serves as faculty Leader of the Program's Conservation Trust Project, Sustainable Land Use Project, Native Environmental Sovereignty Project, and Food Resilience Project, all designed to explore tangible, cutting-edge policy initiatives across various jurisdictions.

After teaching for years, Professor Wood became increasingly aware of the failures of the environmental statutes and the growing ecological crisis across the planet. Finding the root causes of such failure in the politicization of agencies, she embarked on research that would provide a more exacting paradigm for government behavior. She became the country’s leading expert on the Indian trust doctrine, a federal obligation owed to native nations to protect their lands and resources. She then turned her focus to reinvigorate an ancient doctrine known as the public trust doctrine. That doctrine, which exists in every jurisdiction of the United States and in several other nations as well, posits government trustees as stewards of natural resources with strict fiduciary duties owed to both present and future generations. Professor Wood established the first-ever course in public trust law, a course now taught in other schools as well. In August 2013, she and Professor Michael Blumm published a pioneering textbook in public trust law, and a treatise of public trust law is underway. Wood is also the co-author of a leading textbook on natural resources law and has authored numerous book chapters and law review articles on wildlife law, natural resources law, and federal Indian law.

Professor Wood’s new book, Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, defines the frontiers of public trust law and maps out a full paradigm shift for the way in which government agencies manage public resources. Called a “profound assessment of the legitimate foundations of government” by one reviewer, the book reveals the dysfunction of current statutory law and calls upon citizens, government employees, legislators, and judges to protect natural inheritance rightfully belonging to future generations as part of the public trust. Applying her public trust scholarship to climate crisis, Professor Wood originated an approach called Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL), which is designed to hold governments worldwide accountable for controlling carbon pollution within their jurisdictions. In conjunction with a climate prescription developed by Dr. James Hansen (former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and other renowned scientists, her research is being used in lawsuits and petitions brought on behalf of children and youth throughout the United States and in other countries. These lawsuits, which seek judicial decrees enforcing carbon reduction, represent a “macro” approach to climate crisis calibrated to planetary requirements for climate equilibrium. Professor Wood speaks widely on issues of climate crisis and other environmental matters, and her path-breaking work has been highlighted in the Huffington Post, Utne Reader, Grist, The Atlantic, and many other venues.

Wood is a graduate of Stanford Law School (1987) and a former judicial clerk for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is an award-winning teacher and a recipient of the University of Oregon’s highest teaching award (the Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching). She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her family and is engaged in local food and sustainability initiatives.






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