Montana Audubon awards Conservationist of the Year to Held v. State of Montana Youth Plaintiffs | Montana Audubon


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Montana Audubon awards Conservationist of the Year to Held v. State of Montana Youth Plaintiffs

Montana Audubon is honored to present the Conservationist of the Year Award to the 16 youth plaintiffs of the Held v. State of Montana lawsuit, in recognition and honor of their historic, winning, youth-led constitutional climate lawsuit.

For nearly three decades, Montana Audubon has presented the annual Conservationist of the Year Award to an individual that exemplifies a commitment to birds, other wildlife, and habitat conservation in Montana. This award is presented annually at the Wings Across the Big Sky Birding Festival, which was held this year in Helena, Montana, May 31 – June 2.

On March 13, 2020, 16 young people from across Montana filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana. They asserted that, by supporting a fossil fuel-driven energy system that causes and contributes to the climate crisis, the State of Montana has failed to uphold Article II, Section 3 of our Constitution which provides all Montanans a right to a clean and healthful environment; to seek safety, health, and happiness; and to individual dignity and equal protection of the law. This youth-led climate lawsuit ultimately successfully argued that the state’s fossil fuel energy system degrades and depletes Montana’s constitutionally protected public trust resources, including the atmosphere, rivers, lakes, fish, and wildlife.

In Held v. State of Montana, 16 young people turned to the courts and last summer, in an historic decision, the Judge found wholly in their favor, leading to the injunction of two laws passed during the 2023 legislative session, which severely weakened public involvement in the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and prevented the state from collecting and analyzing greenhouse gas emissions. This case is the world’s first, winning, youth-led constitutional climate lawsuit.

 

But the wins from this historic trial are not set in stone.

In September 2023, the State of Montana appealed the decision to the Montana Supreme Court, and in March of this year Montana Audubon joined together with other Montana conservation organizations in filing an amicus brief to the Court in support of the youth plaintiffs.

“Montanans have a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment,” says Larry Berrin, Montana Audubon Executive Director.

“For decades, MEPA has helped to safeguard the ecosystems and people of Montana, ensuring that this constitutional right is met. We stand in strong solidarity and agreement with these young people fighting for a livable future in Montana and beyond. The District Court got it right when it ruled that MEPA must allow agencies to consider climate change impacts in environmental reviews, and that a failure to do so violates our state’s constitution. We urge the Montana Supreme Court to uphold this decision.”

As this group of brave young people take on the State’s appeal this summer, Montana Audubon has, and will continue, to support them in their efforts to ensure that current and future generations have a right to a clean and healthful environment.

The Montana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on July 10 in the state’s appeal of the Held v. Montana case. For more information, see:

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Montana Audubon awards Conservationist of the Year to Held v. State of Montana Youth Plaintiffs

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