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Disclaimer:  This ordinance was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit public interest legal defense fund. It is intended to provide a framework for local, state, and national laws intended to secure and protect the rights of nature.  Distribution of this ordinance should not be considered to be the provision of legal services, and this framework must be customized to local, state, or national law in the locale in which it is considered for adoption. The Legal Defense Fund provides free legal assistance to organizations and governments interested in proposing and adopting these legal frameworks.

Mari Margil, Associate Director
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
P.O. Box 2016, Chambersburg, PA, USA 17202
mmargil@celdf.org, Skype: mari.margil, www.celdf.org
U.S. Mobile:  503-381-1755, International Mobile: +44 7540 211951

In 2008, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund assisted the Constituent Assembly of Ecuador to draft Rights of Nature provisions for its new constitution, and has assisted municipalities in the United States to adopt the first-in-the-nation laws recognizing the legally enforceable Rights of Nature.  We are working with a growing number of communities in the U.S. and internationally to expand this work.

Rights of Nature Ordinance – Un Ley de los Derechos de la Naturaleza
Draft – April 2010
Ordinance No. _____ of 2010

An Ordinance to Recognize the Inalienable Rights of Nature, By Recognizing the Rights of Ecosystems and Natural Communities, and By Providing for Enforcement of Those Rights by People and Their Communities

Section 1. Name. The name of this Ordinance shall be the “Rights of Nature Ordinance.” 

Section 2. Preamble and Purpose. We the People of the Town of ________declare that all human and non-human beings are part of nature and living in balance and harmony with nature is essential for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – both for people and for the ecological systems which give life to all species.  We further declare that we have the duty to secure and enforce the inalienable Rights of Nature, upon which all life depends.  

We the People recognize that the species and ecosystems of the earth have been degraded by human use to the point where many will not recover.  We recognize that human activity is causing climate change which is accelerating species extinction and destroying ecosystems and natural habitat.  

We the People recognize that existing frameworks of laws which treat nature as “property” under law are not preventing the degradation of nature around the world and are in fact accelerating it, and that only binding legal frameworks securing nature rights will reverse that course.  We further recognize that the health and welfare of all beings, human and non-human, depends on a fundamental change in how human beings regard nature, through law, culture, and behavior.  

We the People declare that securing natures’ rights under law continues a long, continuing, and necessary history securing rights for the “rightless” – including women, children, and others – who were once considered “property” under the law, and we recognize that these rights are part of an ever expanding body of rights for all creatures on, and all parts of, the earth.  Further, we call upon all other local, state, and national governments to adopt frameworks of law recognizing the inalienable and fundamental Rights of Nature.
Section 3. Authority. This Ordinance is adopted and enacted pursuant to the inherent, inalienable, and fundamental right of the people to self-government and under authority granted to the people by all relevant state, federal, and international laws, treaties, and agreements including, but not limited to Article I, Part 1 of the U.N. World Charter for Nature which states that nature’s “processes shall not be impaired” and Article III, Part 15 of the Charter which states that the principles set forth in the Charter “shall be reflected in the law of each State, as well as at the international level.” 

Section 4. Statement of Law: Rights. Natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights within the Town of ___________.   These rights include:

a)	The right to exist, flourish, and evolve;
b)	The right to habitat or a place to be;
c)	The right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating being; 
d)	The right to be free from degradation, pollution, and contamination of its natural genetic systems;
e)	River systems have the right to flow and have water quality necessary to provide habitat for native plants and animals, and to provide clean drinking water; 
f)	Aquifers have the right to sustainable recharge, flow, and water quality; and
g)	Species have the right to exist, flourish, and evolve.  

“Ecosystems” shall include, but not be limited to, forests, species, wetlands, groundwater systems, surfacewater systems, rivers, streams, and aquifers.  “Ecosystems” shall include the earth’s climate.

Section 4.1.  Statement of Law: Rights.  The people of the Town of ________ possess the inalienable and fundamental right to a healthy environment, free from degradation, pollution, and contamination.

Section 5.  Statement of Law.  No person, corporation, business entity, or local, state, or federal government entity shall engage in any activity that violates the rights of natural communities and ecosystems defined in Section 4, or the rights of the people defined in Section 4.1.  

Section 6. Enforcement.  It shall be unlawful for any person, government entity, or corporation or other business entity or its directors, officers, owners, or managers to interfere with the rights of natural communities and ecosystems, or to cause damage to those natural communities and ecosystems.  The Town, along with any Town resident, shall have standing to seek declaratory, injunctive, compensatory, and punitive relief for damages caused to natural communities and ecosystems within the Town, regardless of the relation of those natural communities and ecosystems to Town residents or the Town itself.  Town residents, natural communities, and ecosystems shall be considered to be “persons” for purposes of the enforcement of the civil rights of those residents, natural communities, and ecosystems.

Section 7. Civil Rights Enforcement.  Any Town resident shall have standing and authority to bring an action under this Ordinance’s civil rights provisions, or under state and federal civil rights laws, for violations of the rights of natural communities, ecosystems, and Town residents, as recognized by this Ordinance.  Compensatory and punitive damages paid to remedy the violation of the rights of natural communities and ecosystems shall be paid to the Town of __________for restoration of those natural communities and ecosystems.

Section 8. Severability.  The provisions of this Ordinance are severable, and if any section, clause, sentence, part, or provision thereof shall be held illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision of the court shall not affect, impair, or invalidate any of the remaining sections, clauses, sentences, parts, or provisions of this Ordinance. 
Section 9. Effect. This Ordinance shall be effective immediately upon its enactment.