Where Are They Now? Tim Fitchett
by Kenji Gullo | July 27, 2023
Tim Fitchett moved to Oregon around seven years before going to law school. Even before discovering Crag, he was already invested in protecting the environment and working with the communities around him. He worked with Friends of Trees, a nonprofit here in Oregon focused on planting trees in urban and suburban areas. He also volunteered with Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA) through Americorps, helping maintain trails, restore wetlands, and rebuild homes and local infrastructure.
He was introduced to Crag by local environmental attorneys, namely Andy Meeks of Friends of Trees and Nathan Baker of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Discovering Crag inspired Tim to pursue a career in environmental law himself. He studied at Lewis & Clark law school, and after his second year, was accepted for an internship as a Crag legal assistant.
“The idea of working with a group like Crag took me to law school.”
While at Crag, Tim gained valuable experience in land use law. He worked with cases involving Oregon’s controversial Measure 37 and Measure 49, which govern when property owners are allowed to circumvent zoning laws. He also tackled other cases relating to the use of eminent domain to build on farmland without the consent of the owner. The experience and connections Tim gained at Crag would be invaluable in his career. After graduating from Lewis and Clark, he ran a private law practice in Oregon that focused on business and estate law. However, he remained involved in environmental law as well, working with Crag on multiple cases in the Mount Hood area and Willamette Valley.
Having Crag as a reference, I know it helped me land this job. It’s why I’m working at Fair Shake, at least in part.
Staff Attorney, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services
2015 Crag Legal Assistant
When he returned to Pennsylvania, he discovered Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting the environment and putting clients’ needs first. Fair Shake is similar to Crag, but takes on a more varied clientele due to its three branches of legal counsel, each geared towards serving different segments of the community and accomplishing different goals. The firm’s pro bono work helps low-income clients receive compensation for the effects of climate change. Their sliding scale legal services are offered to both individuals and organizations, and are priced based on each client. Lastly, they also perform public interest litigation in conjunction with a variety of organizations. Fair Shake’s work encompasses a variety of cases. One of the most prevalent polluting industries in the region is fracking, which carries with it numerous environmental hazards in addition to the natural gas it produces, such as wastewater storage and the production of ethylene, a plastic which is derived from a byproduct of fracking. As a result, much of Fair Shake’s work involves taking on large fossil fuel companies. However, they also perform other work such as challenging developments on behalf of small communities whose natural resources are threatened.
When it comes to his own work, Tim doesn’t describe himself as a specialist in any one particular area of environmental law. However, he finds that many of the cases he takes on are at the intersection of land use or property rights law and environmental issues. He also works with the Environmental Rights Amendment, a section of the Pennsylvania State Constitution that guarantees a right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” This provision is unique to a few states in the nation, Montana, Hawaii, and Illinois being among the others.
Despite this law, the work of protecting Pennsylvania’s environment is still very difficult according to Tim, perhaps even more so than in the Pacific Northwest.
“In Oregon, it felt like the government agencies and the states were at least somewhat on the side of the environmentalists. Here, it is very pro-industry,” he told me when discussing the differences between environmental issues in the Northwest and the Appalachians.
However, Tim has always been inspired to continue the struggle of protecting the planet. He admires the patchwork nature of the environmental movement, and is confident that a network of orgs each securing their own small wins can make a difference in the long-term health of the environment. He is also driven by his experiences with communities that have not historically had access to environmental protection, and knows that inaction comes with heavy costs. Lastly, he views the environmental movement as our responsibility towards future generations, something especially important to him as a father.
In his spare time, Tim loves to experience the local area by trail running in Frick Park, a local park in his home city of Pittsburgh, kayaking, and camping.
Kenji Gullo served as a Development & Communications intern in Fall 2022 & Spring 2023. He is a incoming freshman at Haverford College in Delaware. Kenji is interested in environmental justice and conservation, and in his free time is a competetive fencer.