About Earth Law Center

Earth Law Center is building an international grassroots movement from the ground up, one that speaks to the responsibility humans have to the world around us. We believe that the ecosystems that make up our world have rights just like people do. We work with local communities around the world to help them defend the rights of Nature and to protect their environment from threats.

Our approach is unique because we seek legal rights for ecosystems and species, like those given to people and corporations. Both people and corporations rely on Nature to provide the air, food, water and natural resources to sustain us, so it’s our responsibility to respect and protect the rights of Nature.

Empowering Nature empowers communities: when people see themselves protecting their local environment then the stakes are raised, transforming the relationships between people and Nature.

ELC connects these local advocates to build regional movements, with the goal of creating national and international momentum for a radical change in how we view and interact with the natural world.

“Earth Law Center works to transform the law to recognize, honor and protect Nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve.”

We do this by building and connecting advocates for Nature's rights around the world and building a team of Earth lawyers to engage in frontlines legal advocacy. We partner with local organizations create new laws that recognize rights of rivers, oceans, coastal and land ecosystems.

Key Achievements:

  • Assisting governments across the world to write and apply Rights of Nature laws, including a recent constitutional amendment in the State of Colima, Mexico.

  • Securing legal rights for Marine Protected Areas, such as the Patagonian Sea, to protect thousands of species of animals and help preserve its ecosystem.

  • Fighting for the inherent rights of forests, rivers, mountains, and other ecosystems. We recently helped secure recognition of forests as “living entities” throughout El Salvador.

Our Team




Grant Wilson is an attorney who has advanced environmental campaigns in the United States and worldwide: from the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancún to Kenyan National Land Policy work to Deputy Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute in the US. Grant earned a degree in Environmental Policy from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, and a J.D. with a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.

Curriculum vitae



Michelle Bender is an environmental law and policy specialist with expertise in ocean and wildlife law, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. She serves on the Executive Committee for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and is a member of the IUCN's World Commission on Environmental Law. Michelle graduated Summa Cum Laude from Vermont Law School, where she earned a Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy and holds a B.S. in Biology with a Marine Emphasis from Western Washington University.

Curriculum vitae



Devon Kearney is a fundraising professional who has spent his career in the service of organizations that defend fundamental rights and advance solutions to pressing social problems.

Curriculum vitae

Senior Counsel - Marsha Moutrie


Marsha Moutrie is an attorney who has practiced in the public, private and nonprofit sectors since 1975, when she graduated from UCLA Law School. In 2016, she retired from government employment after serving for 22 years as the City Attorney of Santa Monica, California, where she headed the city's in-house law office and was responsible for all of the city's legal matters. Her work included writing and enforcing a wide variety of laws, including many environmental laws. In 2013, she wrote the City's Sustainability Rights Ordinance, which recognizes and codifies the fundamental and inalienable right of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish.



Greg Naylor is an attorney and environmental advocate who has worked with NextGen Climate Action and former V.P. Al Gore's Climate Reality Project to educate the public on climate change and the need to protect the Rights of Nature.

Curriculum vitae

Board of Directors



Anthony R. Zelle, a founder of Zelle, McDonough & Cohen, led the Earth Law panel discussion at the Vermont Law School Symposium in October 2018, spoke on indigeneity at the Coming Together of Peoples Conference at Wisconsin Law School and leads ELC's Earth Law textbook project.




Rachelle has 25 years of experience in Rights of Nature legal issues. As an attorney for Israel’s Environment Ministry, she worked extensively on nature protection and biodiversity issues.




Board Treasurer Rellie brings 20+ years of financial experience as Head of Finance for a range of industries including design/architecture, public relations and medical information technology.




Board Secretary Elise Garcia brings 20+ years of experience in nonprofit communications, development, and strategic planning.




Joanne is a Digital Marketing and Creative Leader offering her clients 20+ years experience with a proven track record in integrated marketing, digital strategy, social media, and e-business solutions.



Board Member - DARLENE MAY LEE

Darlene brings 20+ years of leadership and management experience both in the US and internationally and most recently served as ELC's Executive Director.

Curriculum vitae


Advisory Council


Cormac Cullinan is a practicing environmental attorney and author based in Cape Town, South Africa. He directs the environmental law firm Cullinan & Associates Inc., and the consultancy EnAct International. A former anti-apartheid activist, he has practiced, taught and written about environmental law in over 20 countries. Mr. Cullinan notably authored “Wild Law.,” which laid the groundwork for the rights of nature movement world-wide. He was also the lead author of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, approved by over 30,000 attendees at the April 2010 “World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth” in Bolivia. He is a graduate of the University of Natal and the University of London (Kings College).


Linda Sheehan is the former Executive Director of Earth Law Center and now the Executive Director of the Planet Pledge Alliance. Prior to ELC, Linda took action on behalf of California’s waterways and ocean habitats as Executive Director of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, and as Pacific Region Office Director for the Ocean Conservancy. For her efforts in “fight[ing] pollution of the Pacific and the streams and rivers that flow into it,” Linda was recognized as a “California Coastal Hero” by Sunset Magazine and the California Coastal Commission. Linda holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a Concentration in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; an M.P.P. from the University of California, Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy; and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley's School of Law.


Peter Barnes is an entrepreneur and writer who has founded and led socially and environmentally sustainable businesses. In 1976 Mr. Barnes co-founded a worker-owned solar energy company in San Francisco, and in 1983 he co-founded Working Assets Money Fund. He subsequently served as president of Working Assets Long Distance, and in 1995 he was named Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California. He is the author of numerous books including “Who Owns the Sky? Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism,” and “Capitalism 3.0.” In 1997, Mr. Barnes founded the Mesa Refuge, a writers’ retreat in northern California. Mr. Barnes earned a B.A. in History from Harvard and an M.A. in Government from Georgetown.


Joshua Farley is a Fellow at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and Associate Professor in Community Development & Applied Economics and Public Administration at the University of Vermont. Dr. Farley previously served as Executive Director of the University of Maryland International Institute for Ecological Economics, and taught under a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil. Dr. Farley’s work focuses on the design of an economy that balances what is biophysically possible with what is socially, psychologically and ethically desirable. He is co-author with Herman Daly of “Ecological Economics, Principles and Applications.” He earned a B.A. in Biology from Grinnell College, an MIA in Economic and Political Development from Columbia, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Resource & Managerial Economics from Cornell.


Randy Hayes is a Principal Organizer of the new non-profit Foundation Earth, focusing on the economic model for deep long-term sustainability. Mr. Hayes founded Rainforest Action Network in 1985 and sits on its Board of Directors, advancing corporate accountability campaigns, rainforest advocacy and support for the rights of indigenous peoples. In city government, Randy was President of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, and Director of Sustainability under Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. He has also worked at the International Forum on Globalization. Mr. Hayes holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Planning from San Francisco State University, has been a documentary filmmaker, and contributed to the book “Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible.”


Terry O'Day leads California business development for eVgo, which is developing the nation’s electric car charging infrastructure (www.evgonetwork.com). Mr. O'Day was formerly Executive Director of Environment Now in Santa Monica, California, where he was responsible for the strategic direction, development, and day-to-day operations of this foundation. Mr. O'Day is also a City Council Member for the City of Santa Monica, where he served as Chair of the City’s Planning Commission, member of the Sustainable City Task Force, and Advisory Board Member of Solar Santa Monica. Mr. O'Day holds an M.B.A. from The UCLA Anderson School of Management, completed the Coro Public Affairs Fellows Program in Los Angeles, and received a B.A. with Honors in Public Policy from Stanford University.