Coastal Law Project

The Pistol River meets the ocean. Photo by Bruce Swenson.
The Pistol River meets the ocean; this is one of the rivers we seek to protect from mining. Photo by Bruce Swenson.

In 2004, the Oregon Shores board of directors made a decision that has hugely benefited our work and the coastal environment ever since. We had worked on several issues with the Crag Law Center, a non-profit organization that provides legal help to other non-profit conservation groups, and had developed great respect for their work and their mission.  We learned that they were interested in working on coastal issues, and would like to consider developing an ongoing relationship.  It didn’t take much conversation before we had hammered out a joint plan, and the Coastal Law Project (CLP) was born.

Oregon Shores has been working in partnership with Crag ever since.  We provide funding, they provide low-cost, high-quality legal services.  The cost of the project is one of our major fiscal challenges, and yet it leverages vastly more legal help than we could afford were we to hire legal help at market rates.  The CLP enables us to work with dedicated conservation lawyers who have an impressive track record in defending the environment in court—not just on the Oregon coast, but throughout the West. 

Crag Law Center is a client-focused, public interest law organization that provides legal aid for the environment, representing community groups, conservation organizations, Native Tribes, and individual across the Pacific Northwest. To protect and sustain our region’s natural legacy for current and future generations, Crag offers a wide range of strategic support, including legal representation, assistance with civic participation, development and execution of campaign strategies, community organizing, and media relations.  They implement a unique model of “legal aid for the environment,” combining their own legal skills with their clients’ passion for their local communities to implement a positive vision for Oregon’s future. 

In our case, the relationship isn’t so much client-to-attorney (except formally, when they represent us in court), as a partnership that involves not just legal activities in courtrooms and hearing rooms, but advice on policy and assistance in educating our members about land use and other aspects of conservation law.

While we work with Crag as an organization, we typically work primarily with one of their attorneys.  During the project’s  first four years, this was J.D. Brown, who subsequently joined our board.  Since 2008, we have worked with Courtney Johnson (see her profile in the People section).  With Courtney’s help, we have addressed issues ranging from LNG development and vested rights to golf course proposals and clean water issues.

Oregon’s coast is the pride of the state, and a national treasure, but it is under immense threat from developers and resource extraction schemes. For more than a decade, Oregon Shores and Crag Law Center have worked together as the Coastal Law Project to provide Oregon’s coastal environment with the highest quality of legal protection.