The David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to activists and attorneys who exemplify David Brower’s spirit and accomplishments. The students of Land, Air, Water – the nation’s oldest and largest environmental law society – established the David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. The honor is presented annually during the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) in Eugene, Oregon.

David R. Brower

Brower 1994

David Brower was perhaps the most important environmentalist of the second half of the 20th century. He was Executive Director of the Sierra Club and took it from a group of friends hiking on the trails of California to an activist organization making a difference all over the country and beyond. His famous full-page advertisement to oppose the building of a dam near the foot of the Grand Canyon asked, “Should we also flood the Sistine Chapel so that the tourists could get nearer the ceiling?” The Sierra Club lost its tax exemption for that, which was a good thing, for freed from the burden of staying out of politics it moved out with courage into broader policy and political battles.

Sierra Club membership skyrocketed under his leadership. Eventually, a combination of the old guard and members concerned about financial soundness got him fired. He reacted by founding Friends of the Earth, which of course has become a worldwide force for good. When he later lost a fight against the move of FOE’s headquarters from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., he resigned and formed Earth Island Institute, origin of many more initiatives.

David became the “grandfather” of the PIELC for many years, and always said that it was the most important conference anywhere. For this reason Land, Air, Water grants an annual David Brower award to an important activist exemplifying his spirit and accomplishments.

By John Bonine, 1997 & 2007 Brower recipient


2023 Abigail Dillen
2022 [not awarded]
2021 Greg Dotson
2020 Robert Bilott
2019 Manesh Chandra Mehta
2018 Carol Van Strum
2017 Gordon Bettles
2016 Calvin Hecocta
2015 Mary Wood
2014 Staff of Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW)
2013 Norma Grier & Dahinda Meda
2012 Lisa Heinzerling
2011 Jeremy Wates
2010 Maria Gunnoe
2009 Pablo Fajardo Mendoza
2008 William C. Rodgers
2007 John E. Bonine & Michael D. Axline
2006 J. Michael McCloskey
2005 Zygmunt J. B. Plater
2004 Ken Sleight
2003 Peter Seeger
2002 Robin Morris Collin
2001 Peter M.K. Frost
2000 Corbin Harney
1999 Lou Gold
1998 Patrick C. McGinley
1997 John E. Bonine & Michael D. Axline

2016: Calvin Hecocta 

Breitenbush Salmon drop 001

The Co-Directors of this year’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference are proud to announce the 2016 recipient of the David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award for Activism, lifelong Native Rights and Environmental Activist Calvin Hecocta. Please join us on March 6 at 12:15 in the Erb Memorial Union Ballroom for the award ceremony. Hecocta was raised by his parents and elders in the Numa tribe near Beatty, Oregon. The Numa are a band of the Owens Valley Northern Paiute Nation and are part of the federation of Klamath Tribes. Numa is a self-appointed moniker that means “the people.” The Numa also call themselves Nün‘wa Paya Hup Ca’a‘ Otuu’mu -“coyote’s children living in the water ditch.”

Calvin learned the spiritual blessings and traditional ceremonial practices of his people from his Grandfathers, Uncles, and others who were true to their traditions. The Grandmother Culture of the tribe held him to strict behavioral and cultural standards. Environmental ethics were paramount.

Hecocta’s involvement with Native and environmental activism started when the sacred sites he visited with his Grandfathers fell under the control of the US Forest Service. The Forest Service began a robust logging program upon critical habitat and sites sacred to the Tribes. Hecocta dedicated his life to protecting those lands, including the restoration of the anadromous fish runs the Tribes depended upon.

In 1954, when Hecocta was young, the Klamath were chosen for “Termination,” a practice sold to the public as a benign “assimilation” effort. Termination was in fact an odious practice that led to the revocation and sale of 1.9 million acres of the Klamath Reservation, all that was left from the 22 million acres of their historic ancestral lands, mostly to private timber interests. The remainder became the Winema National Forest. Soon after, many other tribes faced Termination. By 1973, the Klamath tribal lands were no more.

Hecocta worked with legendary Native activist John Trudell; Mark Comfort, the great Civil Rights activist and Black Panther Party leader; and many others on the founding legal documents for the American Indian Movement (AIM). Hecocta served as Northwest Chairman for AIM and was instrumental in AIM’s activism efforts.

In November 1972, during AIM’s occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs DC headquarters, AIM and their Hog Farm Commune allies found secret documents detailing Termination plans for all tribes. Hecocta, AIM, and their allies began a concerted campaign to not only expose and prevent further Terminations, but to begin the process of Restoration of tribal rights and lands. This effort was one of AIM’s major successes, and saw Restoration occur for many tribes, including the Klamath.

The Klamath Tribes officially regained federal recognition under the Klamath Restoration Act (25 U.S.C. § 566, et seq.) on August 26, 1986. However, the Restoration Act did not restore The Klamath Tribe’s former reservation lands, and tribal efforts to regain their tribal land base continue.

Over the years, Hecocta’s presence was felt at most of the Northwest forest protection campaigns, which began in earnest when grassroots activist Dinah Ross filed the firstAppeal of Old Growth logging plans in 1979. Hecocta joined the board of the Native Forest Council and traveled the land as a voice for the species not represented at government hearings. He allied with the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC) and was a founding board member of the Friends of Opal Creek. He and his ally, the great Oglala spiritual leader Wilmer Stampede Mesteth, conducted many protection ceremonies at Opal Creek. Opal Creek is now a protected and treasured Oregon Wilderness Area.

Hecocta taught Native American religion, philosophy, and environmental ethics at Willamette University and Portland Community College. Today, Hecocta is working with activists to stop a Forest Service plan to burn a fire break adjacent to two historic sacred sites in the Mount Washington Wilderness Area. He also leads an effort to get a sacred hot spring returned to Native stewardship. He still runs the annual Touch the Earth Environmental Camp for Native and other youth. Of course, he continues his singing and story-telling and conducts many cultural and environmental workshops dealing with ancient beliefs and contemporary Native Rights and species habitat issues.

2013: Norma Grier & Dahinda Meda


norma-and-dahinda-pielc-2013Recognized for their lifetime commitment to the environment through leadership and action.


Norma and Dahinda were selected not only for their effective work protecting the environment, but also for contributing to their local communities, encouraging and inspiring young people, and supporting the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference for many years.  

2012: Lisa Heinzerling


Recognized for her longtime commitment to environmental litigation and her creative administrative brilliance.


Lisa Heinzerling is a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. Previously, she practiced environmental law for the Massachusetts Attorney General and was an attorney and administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Heinzerling authored the petitioners’ brief in Massachusetts v. EPA, a seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision compelling federal regulation of greenhouse gases. She is widely written, including a frequently cited 2005 book she co-authored, Priceless: On Knowing The Price Of Everything And The Value Of Nothing, and a textbook collaboration with 2005 Brower recipient Zyg Plater, Environmental Law and Policy: Nature, Law, and Society.

2011: Jeremy Wates

Jeremy Wates is the Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of the continent’s environmental organizations. He previously served as the Secretary of the Aarhus Convention, a binding treaty on participatory democracy and the environment, from 1999 to 2010. Wates had worked for the EEB to foment the convention’s creation and coordinated the inclusion of citizen input during treaty negotiations. In the 1980s, he launched an Irish environmental organization, Earthwatch.

2010: Maria Gunnoe

Maria Gunnoe is an environmental justice organizer who works for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. Her ancestral home in West Virginia sustained direct impacts from nearby mountaintop removal mining until a flood demolished it. Gunnoe’s efforts to increase awareness about the environmental and health consequences of mining practices is often not in keeping with the prevailing view among her fellow West Virginians. In 2009, her efforts were recognized with the Goldman Environmental Prize.

2009: Pablo Fajardo Mendoza

Pablo Fajardo is an Ecuadorian attorney who labored in the Lago Agrio oil field before earning a law degree. In 2004, he became lead counsel in a 30,000-member class action seeking damages for environmental and health harm wrought by the oil field. Fajardo and associate Luis Yanza received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2008 for organizing indigenous communities for the lawsuit. The trial was Fajardo’s first. An Ecuadorian court awarded damages exceeding $8bn in 2011.

2008: William C. Rodgers

Bill Rodgers was an environmental activist and organizer. In the late 1980s, he began participating in EarthFirst! campaigns. Rodgers relocated to Prescott, Arizona, where he co-founded the Catalyst Infoshop, activist resource center, in 2004.

2006: J. Michael McCloskey

Mike McCloskey is a conservationist who was the executive director of the Sierra Club from 1969 to 1985 and chairman from 1985 to 1999. He was hired as the Club’s first field organizer in 1961 under David Brower. McCloskey’s career involved the successful designation of several national parks and wilderness areas, and the passage of over a hundred environmental laws. His memoir, In the Thick of It: My Life in the Sierra Club, was published in 2005.

2005: Zygmunt J. B. Plater

Zyg Plater is a professor of law at Boston College Law School. He was the petitioner and lead counsel for litigation over the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Tellico Dam project, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal endangered species decision in TVA v. Hill in 1978. Plater chaired the State of Alaska Oil Spill Commission Legal Task Force in 1988-89 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. His is widely written in environmental and administrative law, and public and private rights to land and resources. Among Plater’s works is the textbook, Environmental Law and Policy: Nature, Law, and Society, for which he is the lead author.

2004: Ken Sleight

Ken Sleight is a former river guide who ran the Green and Colorado rivers between the 1950s and 70s. He organized fellow river guides against the eventual flooding of Glen Canyon for the Glen Canyon Dam project. Sleight continued to organize against road and tourism development in the wilderness of southern Utah. He provided the model for “Seldom Seen” Smith, a character in Edward Abbey’s novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. Sleight owns Pack Creek Ranch in Utah.

2003: Peter Seeger

Pete Seeger is a folk singer and activist. In 1969, Seeger and others launched the sloop Clearwater to raise awareness about the degraded state of the Hudson River. An accompanying advocacy and education organization – Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. – continues to advocate for the river’s protection. The Clearwater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

2002: Robin Morris Collin

Robin Morris Collin is a professor of law at Willamette University College of Law. Before teaching, she practiced for the Federal Trade Commission, Maricopa County, Arizona, and a private law firm in Phoenix. Morris Collin became the first law professor to teach sustainability in 1993 and now directs Willamette’s Certification Program in Sustainability Law. She co-authored the three-volume Encyclopedia of Sustainability, released in 2009. Morris Collin also serves on the Board of Directors of the Orion Society.

2001: Peter M.K. Frost

Pete Frost is an attorney and director of the Wildlands Program at the Western Environmental Law Center, having previously worked for the National Wildlife Federation. He is also an adjunct instructor of the University of Oregon School of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic. In the course of his schooling, Frost was a student of David Brower, Mike Axline, and John Bonine.

2000: Corbin Harney

Corbin Harney was an international anti-nuclear and indigenous rights advocate. In 1994, he founded the Shundahai Network, an environmental justice organization. A Western Shoshone spiritual leader and shaman, Harney co-founded and directed the Poo-Ba-Haa healing center. His two books are The Way it Is: One Air, One Water, One Mother Earth and The Nature Way.

1999: Lou Gold

Lou Gold is an environmental storyteller who, in 1983, co-founded the Siskiyou Project to protect the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion. He was arrested and jailed for his activism on Oregon’s Bald Mountain, protesting U.S. Forest Service logging development plans. Gold previously taught political science at Oberlin College and the University of Illinois, and was a cabinet-maker, woodworker, and artist. He now writes a blog, VisionShare, from Brazil.

1998: Patrick C. McGinley

Patrick McGinley is a professor of law at the West Virginia University College of Law. Prior to teaching, he served as a Special Assistant Attorney General in Pennsylvania, handling environmental enforcement and mine safety litigation. McGinley is widely written in environmental and natural resources law, administrative law, and public information access, and co-edited the five-volume treatise, Coal Law and Regulation.

1997 & 2007: Michael D. Axline & John E. Bonine

Mike Axline is a partner in the Sacramento-based law firm Miller, Axline & Sawyer, specializing in toxic tort cases which concern public water supply system contamination. He previously taught law at the University of Oregon for more than fifteen years. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide.

John Bonine is a law professor at the University of Oregon School of Law and director of the LL.M. program in Environmental and Natural Resources Law. He worked for the U.S. Senate and EPA before teaching. At Oregon, Bonine launched the United State’s first environmental law clinic. He has co-authored two textbooks, The Law of Environmental Protection and Human Rights and the Environment, the latter with his wife, Svitlana Kravchenko. Bonine serves on the Advisory Board for Environment-People-Law, an international public interest environmental law organization based in Lviv, Ukraine.

Axline and Bonine co-founded the Western Environmental Law Center, the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, and the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.