The Conservation Law Center, a non-profit environmental law firm based in Bloomington, has hired Christian Freitag to succeed W. William Weeks as president and director of the organization. The Conservation Law Center provides legal counsel without charge to conservation organizations, works to improve conservation law and policy, and offers law students clinical experience in the practice of law and the profession's public service tradition.
For the past eighteen years, Freitag has served as the executive director of Sycamore Land Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization serving southern Indiana. During his tenure, Sycamore Land Trust became one of the most successful conservation groups in the Midwest, protecting nearly 20,000 acres through direct ownership, conservation easements, and partnerships.
Freitag received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington in 1997, and his doctorate from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 2010. At the Conservation Law Center, Freitag will succeed W. William Weeks, who founded the organization in 2005. Weeks, received his J.D. in 1979 from IU Law, and served previously as Executive Vice President of The Nature Conservancy. He will remain with the Conservation Law Center as Chair of its Board of Directors.
Working in collaboration since its founding with the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and since 2014 with the University’s McKinney School of Law, the Conservation Law Center’s attorneys supervise second and third year law student interns, together providing legal representation to local, regional, and national non-profit organizations in a variety of matters to help them achieve their conservation goals. The Center provides legal support for land conservation, drafts model legislation, and advocates before administrative and judicial bodies for conservation of wildlife, ecological systems, and protected areas.
In 2018, the Conservation Law Center, representing the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Save the Dunes Council, won a unanimous decision by the Indiana Supreme Court affirming the public’s right to use the shore of Lake Michigan. The Court held that the State of Indiana owned exclusive title of the property up to the ordinary high water mark, and ruled that the beach was held in trust for the public. Thus, the owners of private land adjacent to the beach could not prevent the public from walking along that portion of the beach or erecting barriers in that zone that may interfere with natural processes. This ruling contains perhaps the most detailed analysis of public trust and equal footing doctrines yet by a Great Lake state.
The Center has also litigated successfully on behalf of the endangered Indiana bat, and engaged in other wildlife advocacy, including work on behalf of golden eagles and bobcats. Recent work has also focused on Indiana waters. The Center’s recommendations on water policy can be found at www.conservationlawcenter.org/water.