“I don't think there was ever a field of law which developed as explosively and dramatically as environmental law,” David Sive, a pioneering environmental lawyer, declared in a 1982 interview. “It was the great romance.” Along with new state and federal regulatory agencies and more than a dozen major environmental statutes passed in the 1970s, fledgling public interest environmental law firms emerged as a major force in national politics. The most prominent organizations, founded between 1967 and 1971, included the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Public Advocates and the Center for Law in the Public Interest, two California-based firms founded during these same years, also initiated key litigation. These small but powerful legal organizations—all predominantly funded by the Ford Foundation—quickly achieved landmark victories that helped to define the early successes of modern environmentalism. They delayed the Alaskan pipeline for more than 3 years, defeated a Disney resort proposed for the Sierra Nevada mountains, and helped push the pesticide DDT off the market in the United States. The organizations also foiled myriad plans for highways, airports, and power plants and pressed agencies to implement new environmental laws in the 1970s.
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