History & Water Heroes

photo of Ralph and Anne Johnson
Ralph & Anne Johnson

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy was founded by University of Washington Law School Professor Ralph W. Johnson in 1993 to serve as a voice for the public interest water resource management and preservation in Washington State. Professor Johnson 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. His scholarship in the Public Trust Doctrine has since provided the foundation for innumerable legal actions to protect each citizen’s right to clean water flowing in our rivers and streams. True to Professor Johnson’s vision, CELP has improved water laws in Washington State and protected rivers and streams throughout Western Washington and the Columbia River.

With the leadership of Professor Johnson, CELP became an independent non-profit in 1995.

Professor Johnson also established the Native American Law Center and the Asian Law Center at the University of Washington Law School.  The full range of Professor Johnson’s scholarship is on-line at the Law School’s Gallagher Library website.  http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/raljohnson.html

Professor Johnson passed away in 1999.  In honor of Professor Johnson’s genius and advocacy, CELP has named its award for exemplary service on behalf of Washington’s waters and people in his honor: the Ralph W. Johnson award. 

Ralph Johnson Awardees Include:

Chairman Billy Frank Jr. accepting the award in 2012 on behalf of the NW Indian Fisheries Commission
Chairman Billy Frank Jr. accepting the award in 2012 on behalf of the NW Indian Fisheries Commission

2020- Professor Robert Anderson

2019- Larry Wasserman

2018- Sara Foster, Laura Leigh Brakke, David Stalheim, Eric Hirst and Wendy Harris

2017 – Dr. John Osborn

2016 – Professor William H. Rodgers Jr.

2015 – Upper Columbia United Tribes

2014 – Ann Aagaard

2013 – Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

2012 – NW Indian Fisheries Commission

2010-2011 – Russell Busch & Harriett Bullitt

2008 – Mickey Gendler

2006 – Rep. Nancy Rust

2004 – Benella Camitti

2001 – Rachael P. Osborn

Read more about the Water Heroes here.