Andy Stahl is a representative for the “Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics” and took the time to talk to me about his experiences with PIELC, his work in environmental law, and himself!
Andy has been working with FSEEE for 20 years. Prior, he worked in the Seattle-area for the “Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund,” now called “Earth Justice.” He was part of the team that brought a series of lawsuits to protect the Spotted Owl and their old growth forest habitat in Washington, Oregon, and northern California.
His favorite part of his job is the excitement of the competition and the intellectual challenge of taking on powerful opponents. For example he and a team of 3 attorneys took on what was, at the time, the most powerful industry in the northwest – timber and logging. In these spotted owl lawsuits, along with the timber industry, governmental agencies and counties were brought in as well. They had a “hell of a lot of fun” as they achieved the results of reducing old growth logging by 90% in the 1990s and being able to sustain it. Over 8 million acres of old growth in 17 national forests has been protected on the West Coast, saving the habitat of the spotted owl. While the big battle has been fought, there is still work to maintain this progress, including concerns surrounding the recent bill supported by Senator Wyden that affects 2.5 million forested acres in eastern Oregon.
Andy has been attending PIELC since it began in the basement of the old law school building. In the mid-1980s Andy presented a PIELC on the work being done on behalf of the spotted owl. During the lecture he made a joke about the owl being genetically engineered to protect old growth forests because his father, a professor of microbiology at UO, was in the audience. The tape of that presentation made its way into the hands of the timber industry and subsequently that quote appeared in the Congressional record and onto billboards discouraging protecting these forests. He laughs about it now.
PIELC creates a community. As I sat at the FSEEE table with Andy a stream of people stopped to just say hi and briefly catch up as they made their way between panels. This included my Property professor, Mary Wood. Andy told me about when he first met her when she was a young attorney working on a “God Squad” proceeding concerning the Spotted Owl between the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Andy received his B.S. in Forestry Management from Oregon State University where he lettered in table tennis. He still loves a good game of ping-pong. He currently has 4 teenagers at home and participates in a competitive bicycle road racing team. He is the senior member of Hutches (Bike Store) team and races in meets around the state of Oregon. Stop by and meet Andy if you have a chance – he has fascinating stories about the development of environmental law and the conference.