Backers of Colorado River Personhood Lawsuit Acknowledge Likely Failure
Backers of a controversial lawsuit aiming to provide the Colorado River personhood rights admitted recently that their legal endeavor faced long odds of success.
A lawyer closely associated with the suit, Jason Flores-Williams, a lawyer representing Deep Green Resistance, told the Post Independent, “The court isn’t going to just give us anything. How we won’t lose is not based on whatever will happen inside the courtroom, but what happens outside of it.”
Another activist with Deep Green Resistance told the Independent in an interview, “Our case by itself is not going to transform the American legal system. People who care about the environment need to realize that one court case is not going to be a quick fix for a system that has a tradition of exploiting the natural world.”
The remarks came last week at a sparsely attended rally in which roughly twenty activists rallied to support a lawsuit filed against the state of Colorado on behalf of the Colorado River. The rally was originally scheduled to coincide with a court hearing, but moved to a local café after the hearing was delayed.
The lawsuit, which was launched in September and covered by Western Wire, seeks to retain personhood rights for the Colorado River including “rights, including the right to exist, flourish, evolve, regenerate, and restoration.” The suit itself is being brought by members of the environmental group, Deep Green Resistance, which is also affiliated with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s non-profit, Waterkeeper Alliance. Legal advisors for the case also the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).
CELDF is alleging that the state of Colorado “may be held liable for violating the rights of the river.” CELDF has also called the suit “the first of its kind” in the U.S., and asserts that “courts around the world” are beginning to agree that “nature and ecosystems possess legally enforceable rights.”
Colorado’s Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, recently moved to dismiss the lawsuit citing a lack of standing and jurisdiction. Coffman disagrees with CELDF’s assessment of recent court actions, writing in the state’s filing, “because no environmental statute or other law authorizes the ecosystem to bring a suit on its own behalf, the Complaint should be dismissed.”
The suit has drawn criticism from many for being frivolous and a waste of state financial resources.
“To have an individual environmental group come in and say they’re representing the river seems highly problematic to me,” Mark Squillace, a natural resources law professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, told KUNC.
“And I have no confidence whatsoever that these people necessarily represent the best interest of the Colorado River,” Squillace said.