California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law

Environmental Law Section Plans Jam-Packed Weekend of CLEs, Outdoor Activities and Speakers in Beautiful Yosemite

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October 2023

By Alison Torbitt

John Carter, Darcy Brown and I, along with the immeasurable help of outgoing Section Chair Kim Bick and CLA Staff Pam Amundsen, have been very busy planning California Lawyers Association’s 32nd Annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, and so hope you can join us, October 19–22, 2023, at the Tenaya Lodge. There is truly no better way to earn CLE than enjoying that crisp mountain air, being inspired by the absolute beauty of the area combined with the company of the premier environmental attorneys of our era. 

Once again, we will kick off the fun on Thursday with the opening reception and the S’mores and Brown Beverage Afterparty, sponsored by my firm, Nixon Peabody. All are welcome to share and enjoy us coming together for this special weekend. Friday morning, we are honored to host a Tribal Opening Ceremony, where leaders of the Associated Tribes of Yosemite National Park and other tribal members will participate in an opening ceremony to mark the start of the conference, followed by a moderated discussion of ecological, cultural, and legal issues impacting their communities, identifying tangible ways Conference attendees can help Tribes redress the legacy of past harms and ongoing deprivations. A thank you to Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp, LLP, who graciously purchased approximately 111 tons of carbon offsets to offset the conference’s greenhouse gas impacts.

This year’s schedule is jam-packed with vibrant and innovative panels, including Public Entity Pursuit of Environmental Justice Through Affirmative Litigation, Green Infrastructure Development, Energy Storage, Offshore Wind, Farming our Future in California, and Title VI. Rapidly changing areas of environmental law include PFAS, Indirect Sources of Warehouses, Ports and Beyond for air, and the Incredible Shrinking Clean Water Act and the State Backstop will be covered. Controversial subjects like ESG, Public Lands, and Floodwaters will be discussed, along with the annual highlights of Legislative, Supreme Court, Public Trust and CEQA Updates. And those are just some of the panels available!

If that isn’t enough, we are beyond thrilled to welcome the Former Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department and Governor of Arizona, the Honorable Bruce E. Babbitt, to help us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the federal Endangered Species Act, and the former Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, as she transitions from the first person of color, and the second woman to serve as California’s chief justice to her leadership of the Public Policy Institute of California. Speaking of celebrities, we are thrilled to present the 10th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award to Rick Frank on Saturday early evening, recognizing his 50 years of contributions to environmental law and policy as a Professor of Environmental Practice and Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center at UC Davis, the founding Executive Director of the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley School of Law, and 30+ years with the California Attorney General’s Office, including as its Chief Deputy Attorney General for Legal Affairs.

Friday evening will feature a live bluegrass concert and BBQ, free for children to attend with their parents. The Wild & Scenic Film Festival will once again be available, this time on demand. Saturday night’s dinner reception will again be a high point, featuring Dr. Tiara Moore, who will share the love story between estuaries and racism (yes, you read that right!), inspiring us to turn trauma into triumph while saving biodiversity, habitats, and natural resources. It is no small feat, coupled with lots of laughs, smiles, good food, good company, and followed by a dessert party. 

It will be an incredible, educational, inspiring and memorable weekend, honoring the legacy of our natural resources and the area’s rich cultural history while looking to the future to find solutions to our state’s environmental law challenges. Please join us! To register and for more information, visit

Allison Torbitt is a co-chair of California Lawyers Association’s 32nd Annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite. She is a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, where she co-leads the Food, Beverage & Agribusiness and Environmental teams and is active in maritime matters.

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