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The Center for Environmental Law & Policy is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to protect, preserve, and restore  Washington’s waters through education, advocacy,
policy reform, and public interest litigation.

Our History

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy was co-founded by University of Washington Law School Professor Ralph W. Johnson and NGO public interest lawyer Rachael Paschal Osborn in 1993. Their shared vision was to create an organization to serve as a voice for the public interest in water resource management and preservation throughout Washington State. They recognized that water belongs to all of us, and that the Public Trust Doctrine should be used to protect this precious resource for humans, wildlife, and life itself.

To this day, Professor Johnson’s scholarship on the Public Trust Doctrine and Federal Indian Law informs every aspect of the way we work. His invaluable expertise and insight provided the foundation for innumerable legal actions and policy initiatives to protect each citizen’s right to abundant, clean, and flowing waterways. His close relationships with many Indigenous Tribes of the Pacific Northwest established a deference to Tribal leadership in water resource management and ongoing legacy of commitment to environmental justice.

Ralph Johnson
Ralph & Anne Johnson
Rachael Osborn
Rachel Paschal Osborn

Throughout her career, Paschal Osborn has been a staunch defender of the public interest, providing representation to Indigenous Tribes, environmental NGOs, labor unions, and small communities. Also a dedicated educator, her commitment to inspiring the next generation of water law and policy proponents is something CELP tries to emulate through our education and community outreach initiatives. She has also written extensively on water resources and environmental issues, which continue to inform our work as well as that of our partners. In addition to co-founding the Center of Environmental Law & Policy, she served as executive director from 1993-1999—overseeing CELP’s transition to an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1993—and again from 2007-2011. She is also co-founder and former board member (1997-2001) of Washington Water Trust.

True to Ralph and Rachael’s vision, CELP has worked tirelessly to update water laws in Washington State in order to protect, preserve, and restore waterways throughout the state. Following his passing in 1999, to celebrate Professor Johnson’s genius and advocacy, CELP names its award for exemplary service on behalf of Washington’s waters and people in his honor: The Professor Ralph W. Johnson Water Hero Award. 

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