Southern Environmental Law Center Launches D.C. Office

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the largest environmental advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting the South's environment, recently announced the opening of its Washington, D.C. office headed by newly appointed legislative director, Nat Mund, formerly the deputy legislative director at the League of Conservation Voters.

For 20 years, SELC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization, has been at the forefront of the region's most critical environmental initiatives. SELC's D.C. office will be focused on shaping and enacting national law and policies that directly impact health and the environment in the South and strengthening relationships with members of Congress to enact legislation that protects threatened, special places in the South. The move is especially timely as the South continues to gain more prominence on the U.S. political landscape.

The South is fast becoming the testing ground for the nation's most pressing environmental issues, including energy and global warming, water resources, land preservation and biological diversity. It is not only the fastest sprawling region in the country, but if the six Southeastern states served by SELC (AL, GA, NC, SC, TN, VA) were viewed as a country, they would rank 7th in the world for CO2 emissions, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"Clearly, the South's unique environmental resources have not achieved the strongest representation possible at the national level. By opening a Washington, D.C. office, we can ensure the southern perspective on national legislation that directly impacts the South, as well as manage some of the hot-button environmental issues in this region that require immediate action," said SELC executive director and founder Rick Middleton.

Added Mund, "I am delighted to be part of SELC's new presence on the Hill. In many ways, the South will be the 'canary in the coal mine' on environmental issues given the projected growth of southeastern states. How we handle and manage environmental issues in the South will have far-reaching implications for the rest of the country. Given SELC's proven results to date on environmental issues, we look forward to working with members of Congress to protect this special region."

Mund will educate lawmakers on the importance of protecting the special places and threatened natural resources unique to the six states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and also will work closely with other environmental organizations with whom SELC partners.

Before joining SELC, Mund's focus at the League of Conservation Voters included work on energy legislation, clean air, clean water, and toxins. He also served as senior Washington representative for the Sierra Club and director of Governmental Relations at the Conservation Council of North Carolina. Nat has a law degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Law.

SELC has more than 100 projects or cases on its docket, however, several national issues are pending that will have a lasting impact on the South. First is the Clean Water Restoration Act, which if passed, would ensure the federal government protects all streams and wetlands. This is a top priority for SELC since the South is rich with wetlands and smaller, upper reaches of streams that risk being forgotten.

SELC also is working on the national stage to protect roadless areas in the Southern Appalachian national forests, which support native wildlife, provide clean water for hundreds of communities, and offer some of the best outdoor recreation spots to be found east of the Mississippi.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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