Environmental Law Program

Student Travel

The Environmental Law Program (ELP) supports student involvement in a variety of extracurricular activities, from attending conferences to presenting and publishing scholarship.  In many cases, travel grants are available to subsidize the cost of travel.  Students are encouraged to contact Professor Antolini to discuss potential opportunities for travel grants.

Check out stories about student travel by clicking on the links!








2010 Student Travels



Chris Delaunay ’10 shares his experiences as an intern with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at http://www.rona.unep.org/internships/delaunay.html. “My overall experience inspired me to write two research papers and pursue work in the environment field….”




2009 Travel Grants

Students and Faculty attend 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon!

“A delegation of Environmental Law Program (ELP) faculty and students attended the 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon School of Law in Eugene from Feb. 26 to March 1. Associate Professor Denise Antolini spoke on a panel focusing on the revival of “environmental common law,” the topic of her co-edited book Creative Common Law Strategies for Protecting the Environment published last year by the Environmental Law Institute. Along with Professor Antolini, Professor Casey Jarman and students Ryan Keesey, Jacqui Tryon Esser, and Malama Minn thoroughly enjoyed attending a dazzling variety of topics amidst more than 100 panels, 10 keynote speakers, and numerous side events that enlivened this internationally renowned four-day conference.”

Student Jacquie Tryon Esser discussed her experience at the Conference:

My experience at the 2009 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), this year on the themed “Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good,” was one of the most practical and memorable experiences of my law school education. Undoubtedly, the PIELC bridged the gap between my academic experiences in the classroom and the active world of current environmental issues and litigation.

As a 3L, I am anticipating graduation and crossing the line from a student to a professional. As a student, the never-ending stresses of class work, finances, and job hunting can be daunting. This past year, I began to let the true reasons I embarked on law school slip away.

After I came back from the PIELC conference in Eugene, Oregon, I felt refreshed and revived. It opened my eyes to the possibilities to a rewarding career in public interest law, where before I was disheartened. For a short weekend, I had a chance to be in a room filled with experienced, creative, and active practitioners who were using their profession as attorneys and environmentalist for ‘solidarity.’ I remember a moment sitting in a panel on the endangered species act , when I thought to myself, “I get this!” Finally, I was able to see how the concepts learned in the classroom were being applied as tools to solve the urgent and pressing environmental issues of our time.

One of the more inspiring experiences I had while at the PIELC was meeting two senior attorneys who had been attending the conference since its inception. It was the last night and a group of NAELS members went to a pub down the street from the University of Oregon. These two attorneys sat down next to us and started telling us about how they were friends from law school and were Alumni of NAELS. Even though they now live and practice law in different states, the conference is a time where they are able to catch up and revive themselves each year. After talking with them, the three of us who attended from the University of Hawai‘i could not help but dream for a similar succession.

Although it is all too easy to get engulfed in the day-to-day commitments of being a law student, we should not forget the true reasons of why we all decided to attend law school in the first place. The PIELC was my reawakening and I feel inspired more than ever to ‘unite for the greener good.’

Student Ryan Keesey discussed his experience at the Conference:

Social activism and environmental science blended with law at the PIELC at U of O in Eugene. The university and the conference attendees together comprised a diverse but like-minded group. There were more interesting presentations offered than time to attend, and I was impressed with the expertise and enthusiam of the conference participants. Workshops and social events afforded additional opportunites to network and share ideas. It was very encouraging to see attorneys just out of school working on significant environmental law issues and to see that progress and success are happening out there. The focus of the PIELC is relevant to many issues facing Hawai‘i, so the conference is a great resource for anyone interested in environmental law, indigenous rights, ecology, and related topics. WSRSL students should continue to attend this conference to take advantage of the resources and to represent our law school.

Virginia Tice, ’09 attends ALI-ABA Environmental Law Conference in Washington, D.C.

Virginia Tice stated, “I had an amazing time at the ALI-ABA Environmental Law Conference in Washington D.C. The detailed and interesting presentations gave practical analyses of all of the major environmental statutes, as well as information on new areas of interest – such as the environmental elements of the economic stimulus package that (at the time) was being debated by Congress and recent Supreme Court decisions.

The structure of the conference enabled me not only to hear about emerging issues, it facilitated discussion with the leaders of each field. For example, I talked about climate change advocacy with the Deputy General Counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, about the expanding regulatory power of the EPA under the Clean Water Act with the Assoc. General Counsel of the EPA Water Law Office, and about bioagriculture in developing countries with the Director of Global Issues of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

It expanded my horizons both intellectually and professionally, and I cannot thank ELP enough for the opportunity!”

2008 Travel Grants

2008 Environmental Law Class Visits Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

From November 7-9, 2008, fifteen fortunate Environmental law students had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the east side of island of Hawaii and experienced the beautiful sunrises and magnificent night sky on the high-elevation slopes of Mauna Kea. The trip was an annual service project for Professor Antolini’s Fall Environmental Law Class. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge consists of the 33,000-acre Hakalau Forest Unit and the 5,300-acre Kona Forest Unit, located at elevations between 2,000 and 6,600 feet on the east and west sides of the “big” island of Hawaii. The sloping terrain is forested with some of the finest remaining stands of native mountain rainforest in the state. The refuge was established in 1985 to conserve endangered forest birds and their habitat. Together, the two units support nine endangered bird species, one species of endangered bat, and more than twenty rare and endangered plant species. This year’s class was fortunate to see almost all of the refuge’s rare and endangered birds and many of its “last remaining” plants on walking tours with Baron Horiuchi, the staff horticulturist, and Jack Jeffrey, refuge biologist, both of whom were extraordinary hosts and educators.. Not only were the students privy to seeing these rare and endangered species first-hand, but they had the opportunity to out-plant their very own endangered trees – such as koa, mamane, and naio — with personalized i.d. tags. The law students assisted the refuge by working in the refuge greenhouse, caring for the endangered plant seedlings by weeding, re-potting, and fertilizing. In the evening, the students enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with cozy communal living and meals in the refuge’s rustic volunteer cabin, which is “off the grid.” The Hakalau experience was “learning by doing.” This field service trip gave students an up-close and personal look at the Hawaii’s fragile environment and the opportunities they have as environmental lawyers to contribute to preserving our islands’ unique species.

Evan Siberstein ’09 visits Surfrider Foundation in California

As part of this fall’s externship with Surfrider Foundation, I was blessed to receive a travel grant from the Environmental Law Program to visit the Surfrider International Headquarters in San Clemente, California. During my trip, I was able to meet many of the internal leaders of the organization and have lots of direct contact with the litigation director. I was briefed on some of the key developments that Surfrider is currently working on, including the historic victory at Trestles, a world famous surf break in Southern California that was under threat of a toll road. I was also able to derive key insights and support in the work I had been doing during the semester involving the crafting and introduction of legislation relating to coastal access here in Hawai‘i. Finally, I got to spend a day at the California Coastal Commission hearings to follow up on some of the issues that Surfrider was tracking and see the cutting edge administrative procedures that go into protecting California beaches and coastline. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and an amazing professional experience. I am very thankful to Surfrider and the ELP for all the support they gave me in making this wonderful opportunity come to fruition.

2008 Hammurabi Legal Forum

A tribute to ELP’s web site came recently from across the globe in Iraq. On a visit to Bagdad, WSRSL Professor Jim Pietsch showed the ELP web site to a group of law school faculty and students at the Hammurabi Legal Forum. He reports that it sparked interest at Baghdad’s leading law school in an effort to reform Iraq’s environmental laws. Led by Professor Pietsch, ELP third-year student Virgina Tice, and second-year student Melissa Farris, among others, this effort will lead to a significant research and policy partnership between our Law School and our new friends and colleagues in Iraq.

For more information: http://www.hawaii.edu/law/site-content/special-programs-community-service/hammurabi-legal-forum/index.html

2008 International Studies Association Regional Conference

On March 26-29, 2008, I attended the International Studies Association Convention in San Francisco, CA (http://www.isanet.org/). With the help of an Environmental Law Program Travel Grant, I was also able present my second year seminar paper entitled “Stopping the Flood: Using Public Nuisance Law to Combat the Introduction of Invasive Species in Hawai‘i.” The International Studies Association is a group of academics founded in 1959 to further the scholarship in international studies. Some of the subjects covered in the ISA conference are international law, trade and communications, political science, sociology, ethics, education, and Women’s Studies.

The conference was a great opportunity for me to share my paper with other students, academics, and government regulators interested in international law, environmental law, and environmental studies. I presented my paper as part of the international trade and communication section based on the impact invasive species regulations have on international trade and law. Although I had never presented a paper in this setting before, I really enjoyed preparing my presentation and trying to convey my paper to people who had varying backgrounds in environmental law.

I also showcased my paper in order to get it published in a law journal, because as part of the conference I was able to post my paper online for reference. Other than presenting my own paper, some of the highlights of my trip included hearing other legal scholars present papers relating to international environmental law, which is a topic I’m highly interested in. Some of the papers I heard on fisheries management and ocean law directly related to the international ocean law class I’m currently taking from Professor Van Dyke. I highly encourage other students to submit their papers to the ISA and take advantage of the great programs and opportunities offered by our environmental law program.

Mahalo to Professor Antolini to allowing me to take advantage of this great opportunity and experience!

Matthew Shannon, 3L

2008 ALI-ABA Environmental Law Conference

For University of Hawai‘i WSRSL students like me who would like to work in environmental law “where it all happens”–Washington, D.C.–figuring out how to get a foot in the door can be daunting. Ordinarily, it would be difficult from all the way in Hawai‘i to figure out who to talk to and ask all my questions about the various federal agencies and private organizations there.

That is why I am so greatful for the travel grant I received from the Environmental Law Program to attend the ALI-ABA Enivornmental Law Conference in Washington, D.C. That travel grant, along with the tuition waiver that ELP helped me to obtain, enabled me to fly to D.C. and meet some of the nation’s most qualified and influential attornies in environmental law. At the conference I spoke with attorneys from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as other private firms in the area. I was able to ask all the questions I had, such as how I might increase my qualifications to be a U.S. DOJ attorney, and what the difference is between an attorney working in the US DOJ Environmental and Natural Resources Division versus an attorney in the US EPA. Plus, I met other friendly law students who were there to learn about careers in environmental law, just as I was. I had a great time!

Kamaile Nichols, Class of 2008

2007 Travel Grants

University of Colorado Environmental Justice and Climate Change Conference

Thanks to a travel grant from the Environmental Law Program, the two of us were able to attend The Climate of Environmental Justice Conference at the University of Colorado School of Law on March 16-17, 2007. This was an amazing experience and an extraordinary conference dealing with this timely and urgent topic. It truly was everything a conference should be- it confirmed what I was thinking about some things and challenged the way I thought about others. From the beginning of the conference I knew we were in for quite an experience.

Jerome Ringo, the first African-American to be Chairman of the Board of the National Wildlife Federation and the President of the Apollo Alliance, delivered a rousing message saying that climate change will be the issue that will break the color lines. He reinforced the idea that climate change will become the new Civil Rights Movement of our time, which was repeated throughout the conference by many speakers. Other notable speakers included Congressman Mark Udall (D-Colorado) and Professor Rebecca Tsosie, Executive Director of the Indian Legal Program at Arizona State University.

The speakers were from a wide range of disciplines and area of the country lending to a variety of expression and depth of knowledge that was inspiring. We were most impressed by the candid way most of the speakers addressed the direness of this issue without any sugar coating. Conferences often end on an optimistic note, but with no real conclusions or even suggestions as to how to solve these issues. In particular, Ruth Gordon’s presentation was stunning in its blunt portrayal of not only climate change itself, but the ineffectiveness of the international climate change regime in dealing with it.

Overall, this was a remarkable opportunity and one that we would highly recommend to other students. Often, it seems we get too busy with the demands of school, but going to these types of events reminds you why you went to law school in the first place. Many thanks again to ELP and Professor Antolini for making this possible for us.

Kaba Grant
Yoslyn Sigrah
Class of 2007

Hawaii Island Food Summit
Keauhou, Hawai

Over the weekend I went to the Hawai‘i Island Foot Summit, which was a two day conference asking the question “How Can Hawai`i Feed Itself?” Right now 80-90% of Hawai‘i’s food is imported.

The Friday conference was called “Exploring Policy, Building Knowledge, Setting a Vision,” and began with a really compelling speech given by our mayor, Harry Kim. He talked about strikes at the Big Island docks when he was growing up, and how aware and fearful people were of there being “no more rice.” This discussion set off a theme that would run through the two days, that the reason for this movement is to decrease Hawai‘i’s dependency on the mainland not only for food, but for our economy as well.

The Rocky Mountain Institute, an eco-business think tank, recently did a study on the potential for the Big Island to feed itself. They found that the barriers are the high price of land, the high price of labor, the lack of willing farmers, and the lack of dependable, affordable water. One interesting idea on the water issue was to dig wells for agricultural water closer to shore, so that they would pull from the saltier portion of the freshwater lens under the island, which is too salty to drink but is fine for agriculture.

We also heard from Claire Hope Cummings, and environmental lawyer and a local food activist who currently lives in Marin County, California. She suggested certified farmers markets, where all the food comes direct from the farmer, agricultural easements, large-lot agricultural zoning, and agricultural tax credits as possible solutions to these problems.

The rest of the day was filled by panels dominated by local politicians. There seems to be a widespread support for agriculture generally, but a lack of focus on details. GMOs were *highly* controversial; the crowd would cheer whenever someone criticized them or recommended banning them, and got pretty upset when the Kamehameha Schools representative indicated that he was open to GMO research on Kamehameha Schools land on the Big Island. Specific policy ideas that came from local political figures were disappointingly few and far between, but some notable ones were:
Ÿ Tax on GMO research to create a fund for diversified agriculture.
Ÿ Modify zoning to concentrate housing in agricultural subdivisions and leave the rest of the land free for agriculture.

The second day was open to the public, and a more general “Exploration of Challenges and Opportunities to Build Community Food Self Reliance.” The RMI and Cummings talks were repeated, then there were break-out sessions. We heard from a lot of farmers about the really difficult challenges they face as businesspeople, and some of their successes and failures.

Madeline Reed, Class of 2009

2007 Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Rally, Denver, CO

I attended three days of conference seminars related to organizing and operating a land trust. This conference was particularly important for me as I help form a new land trust for the Island of Oahu to protect open space. The conference complemented the ELP class Real Estate Transactions in Conservation which I am enrolled in. I learned about tax issues, monitoring of conservation easements, and much much more. Finally, the conference became a great networking opportuntiy for the land trust community in Hawai‘i because there was over twenty people from Hawai‘i in attendance.

Steven Tom, Class of 2008, ELP Certificate Candidate

2007 Hawaii Conservation Conference

Environmental Law Program Students Kate Bryant-Greenwood and Sunny Greer with former Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Peter Young

2006 Travel Grants

On July 26-27, 2006, ELS members attended the 2006 Hawai‘i Conservation Conference (http://www.hawaiiconservation.org/2006-hcc.asp), focusing on “Sustainability – Mauka to Makai.” Kamaile Nichols, Aarin Gross, Matthew Snow, and Steven Tom represented ELS and ELP by passing out brochures, selling T-shirts, and talking story with attendees and presenters. One frequent topic of conversation was the ELS’s new flashy green “Will Work for Trees” T-shirts. The eco-friendly shirts were an exciting experiment in sustainable fund-raising. ELS ordered organic, sweat-shop-free shirts from an environmentally and socially responsible company in North Carolina  and then off-set the carbon created by shipping them from the mainland with a donative to a Native American-owned wind-farm.

Second-year student Kamaile Nichols, Co-Director of ELS, commented: “The Environmental Law Society got a very warm welcome at the Conference. So many people there were happy to see that a group of soon-to-be lawyers were interested in environmental issues. It was also encouraging to me that a significant portion of the attendees were kama`aina from Hawai‘i, since
sustainability really has to begin at the local level. I would go again!”

ELS Co-Director Aarin Gross added: “The conference was a great opportunity to learn about the current conservation efforts underway in Hawaii and the newest approaches to addressing conservation challenges. It was also a chance to connect with old friends in the field and to make new connections. We definitely encourage our fellow law students to take advantage of this opportunity next year. Our ‘truly green shirts’ were a big hit and sent an important message that we all need to ‘walk the talk’ to protect our environment.”

2L Steven Tom added “The conference was a great opportunity for many people in Hawai‘i’s conservation community who had never heard of UH’s Environmental Law Program to learn about it. Many people were surprised and happy to learn of young in-training-attorneys seeking to help their cause. I has happy to learn more about the science, goals, and needs of the convervation community which is difficult gain knowledge of while attending law school. For example, I learned about ungulate control in conservation areas, the bleaching and subsequent killing of tropical corals from global warming, and the creation of two new “experimental forests” for research on Hawai‘i Island. The topic that most interested me professionally was learning about conservation land aquisition. Conservation land aquisition in Hawaii has grown recently with partnerships with Department of Defense and will continue to grow further in the upcoming years with the Legacy Lands Act which provides state funding for land acquisition. I met an ELP alum working in conservation land acquisition at the conference and plan to investigate it further for employment opportunities that may be available upon graduation.”