By Daniel Farber, San Francisco Chronicle
When Joe Sax joined the Berkeley Law faculty in 1986, he had already pioneered a new approach to protecting natural resources. His legal strategy found a receptive audience in the courts. Sax’s “public trust doctrine” fueled a series of legal efforts by Californians to protect the state’s streams, lakes and tidelands from pollution, overdevelopment and private exploitation.
Sax’s strategy helped save Tomales Bay in Point Reyes from commercial development. It stopped Los Angeles officials from draining Mono Lake. His achievements stand alongside the brilliant work of law Professor and Berkeley Chancellor Michael Heyman, who fought to protect Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem through smart land-use planning. Heyman also taught one of the first environmental law courses in the country.
“It traces back to work done at the law school, to community activists and to people in public office,” says Sax. “We need the legal basis to get the job done, and the place where that happens is in the law school.”
Decades before Sax, Professor William Colby was a guiding light in the early days of the Sierra Club. Colby was the Sierra Club’s secretary for almost 50 years.
He also chaired the State Park Commission and helped launch California’s renowned state park system – the first in the nation.
Today, my colleagues, our students and a host of law school alumni continue the effort to defend endangered species, promote sustainable development and protect California’s waters.
The school’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment works with business leaders on ways to address climate change and increase sources – and storage – of renewable energy.
In short, the legacy of Colby, Sax and Heyman lives on – not only in Berkeley Law itself, but also in the wetlands, lakes and mountains they fought with such ingenuity to protect.