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Connecting Across Fields 
Better environmental policies result when diverse affected communities can come together, communicate, and work toward a common goal. SPIEL provides the venue for this collaboration within our region’s public interest environmental movement. This event is dedicated to bringing together people from the worlds of law, science, and conservation advocacy to fight for a livable future in the Southeast.  Attorneys, scientists, grassroots advocates, academics, and students will share knowledge, tactics, and ideas through presentations, hands-on workshops, and discussions in a weekend of fellowship at the University of the South at Sewanee.  Whether you wish to be a presenter or a participant; whether you are a veteran of our movement or a supporter who wants to get involved, please join us this October.  

 A Focus on the Environmental Science 
SPIEL includes a focus on the ecological, biological, and health sciences and the contributions that these fields offer to public interest environmental litigation and grassroots advocacy campaigns. 
The term “best available science” will be familiar to any experienced environmental litigator.  It has been woven through statutes since the 1960s, ranging from the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 and more.  It is part of NEPA’s (the National Environmental Policy Act’s) command to the numerous government agencies subject to its requirements.  Public interest environmental litigation frequently involves scientific data, scientific models, and expert scientific testimony.  Exposure to recent scientific discoveries and discussions of emerging scientific issues is important for anyone who intends to practice environmental law.  


Grassroots environmental advocates also use environmental science regularly. Grassroots reliance on science ranges from reliance on studies, models, and data in comments to government agencies and public outreach materials to the generation of data by citizens themselves via citizen science. The grassroots has much to gain from keeping abreast of recent scientific developments. SPIEL hopes to provide citizen science content at this conference. 


 Grassroots organizations 
Environmental law is one of the few areas of our federal government where everyday citizens can have a significant impact on the creation and enforcement of major laws and policies. Going back to the days of John Muir in the 19th Century, citizens and civic groups have had a marked influence on American environmental laws and policy. 

This trend continued well into the 20th Century, when grassroots individuals and groups brought about and actively shaped the major environmental laws used in the field of public interest environmental law today. Today, grassroots advocates still actively craft legislation at the state and federal level, while finding themselves litigating topics as broadly distributed as public lands policy, water pollution, environmental justice, and climate trust responsibilities.  Grassroots citizens and organizations are often the frontlines watchdogs who ensure that laws are enforced, and who develop the factual records used in public interest environmental litigation.  It is these unsung sentinels who make much of environmental law work on the local, state, and federal levels.

Connecting Students 
Some of the work to organize this conference will come from student volunteers from Sewanee and other liberal arts colleges in the region.  This is a great opportunity for students to add something unique to their resumés while connecting with professionals in law, non-governmental organizations, and the ecological sciences.  These kinds of connections are crucial for students looking to further their education in graduate studies, or to launch a new career.

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