Lake Erie Bill of Rights Gets the Ax: Is Legal Personhood for Nature Dead in the Water?

Document Type

Scholarly Article

Publication Date

Fall 2019


On February 26, 2019, the citizens of Toledo voted to amend the city's charter to grant the Lake Erie ecosystem the legally enforceable "right to exist, flourish and naturally evolve," establishing the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). Seeking to protect the watershed from further degradation, the LEBOR gave citizens standing to sue polluters on its behalf. The LEBOR deemed invalid any existing or future permit issued to a corporation by any federal or state entity that would violate Lake Erie's rights. The LEBOR is just one example of the developing trend of communities taking a rights-based approach to protect local resources.