Environmental group sues state of Colorado seeking ‘personhood declaration’ for Colorado River
A first-in-American-history legal battle is just starting to play out in Denver courtrooms this week after an environmental group filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to declare the Colorado River a “person” with legal rights as well as a right to existence and to flourish, which proponents refer to as “rights of nature”.
On Tuesday the environmental group Deep Green Resistance, and a collection of six other co-plaintiffs, filed a complaint for declaratory relief on behalf of the Colorado River in Colorado’s US District Court.
“Plaintiff’s, request that this Court declare that the Colorado River Ecosystem is a ‘person’ capable of possessing rights and securing those rights through enforcement and defense of those rights,” states the court filing.
The filing goes on to state, “The Colorado River Ecosystems possesses the right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve.”
Deep Green Resistance is also asking the court to formally name the environmental entity and the other plaintiffs as “next friends” for the river; a legal term for individuals who are formally allowed to represent others in court, in this case the plaintiffs on behalf of the river.
Additionally the plaintiffs argue that some of the actions currently taken by the State as it relates to the river “violate the rights of the natural communities creating the Colorado River”. They are asking the Court to allow them to file for injunctive relief, “to enjoin the state of Colorado from taking action related to those activities, or to force the State of Colorado to take certain actions, as violations of the rights of the Colorado River Ecosystem.”
To accomplish their request the plaintiffs are asking the District Court to grant an evidentiary hearing.
The plaintiffs are being represented by Denver based Civil Rights lawyer Jason Flores-Williams.
“Current environmental law is simply incapable of stopping the wide-scale environmental destruction that we’re experiencing,” Flores-Williams stated. “We’re bringing this lawsuit to even the odds – corporations today claim rights and powers that routinely overwhelm the efforts of people to protect the environment. Our judicial system recognizes corporations as “persons,” so why shouldn’t it recognize the natural systems upon which we all depend as having rights as well? I believe that future generations will look back at this lawsuit as the first wave of a series of efforts to free nature and our communities from a system of law which currently guarantees their destruction.”
Representatives of the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office, which will represent the State during the suit, were not available to respond to requests for comment related to the filing.
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