74 Fla. L. Rev. 699 (2022)
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Environmental LawLand Use Law


The Rights of Nature Movement, a global political movement that seeks to expand the legal rights traditionally granted to humans and corporations to natural entities like lakes, rivers, and ecosystems, is becoming more mainstream. In the United States, the movement has had successes in passing local ordinances that grant lakes and rivers the right to exist and flourish. The most high-profile of these victories for the movement was the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, an ordinance that passed in Toledo, Ohio, in February of 2019.

This Note explores the Rights of Nature Movement in the United States. The ordinances that have been enacted by various local governments generally establish the right of a river or lake to exist and flourish, and some ordinances strip corporations of their rights under state and federal law. While some saw the Lake Erie Bill of Rights ordinance as a big victory for the movement, a federal district court invalidated the ordinance in February of 2020. This Note analyzes that district court case and uses it as a foil to explore the weaknesses of the movement. This Note argues that the movement should stop focusing on local governments, and instead seek more nuanced policies at the state level, including a guardianship scheme for entities like lakes and rivers.