Jonathan Wood

Senior Attorney DC

Jonathan Wood is an attorney at PLF’s DC Center, where he litigates environmental, property rights, and constitutional cases. He is passionate about finding constitutional, effective, and fair solutions to environmental problems. He believes that property rights are our greatest tool for improving the environment and, through PLF, he fights to defend those rights every day.

Jonathan stumbled into his interest in property rights and free market environmentalism while pursuing a master’s degree at the London School of Economics. He spent his time in college at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ’em) thinking he would be an academic economist. But, in grad school, he studied Namibia’s free market environmental reforms and learned how important clear and secure property rights are to protecting everything from water quality to endangered species.

Jonathan’s burgeoning interest in libertarian environmentalism led him to the NYU School of Law, home of several leading libertarian law scholars and a premier environmental law program. During law school, he worked for the Cato Institute, a federal judge, and PLF. Since joining the PLF team after law school, Jonathan’s work has focused on defending and promoting property rights’ role in protecting the environment and fighting government actions that trample liberty without any benefit to the environment, especially overcriminalization and constitutional violations.

In addition to his work for PLF, Jonathan is an Adjunct Fellow with the Property and Environment Research Center, a member of the Executive Board for the Federalist Society’s Environmental Law and Property Rights Practice Group, and publishes FREEcology—a blog on libertarian environmentalism.

State of California v. Bernhardt

Motion to intervene filed to defend protections for property owners

In 2019, the Department of Interior changed the way that it applies the Endangered Species Act by rescinding an illegal rule. The changes offered additional protections for property owners—like Ken Klemm, who runs a 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas. The changes also incentivized property owners to assist in the recovery of species by loosening restrict ...

Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior

Bad rulemaking threatens good conservation

A buffalo rancher by trade, Ken Klemm also uses his 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas for conservation efforts. In fact, Klemm works with the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (KNRC) to implement a conservation plan for the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers such local collaboration for determining endangered listings und ...

Tugaw Ranches, LLC. v. U.S. Department of Interior

Illegal rulemaking threatens livelihoods

Like many western U.S. ranching families, the Picketts have worked on the same land in Idaho for many generations and have a thriving business selling naturally raised beef. And like many ranchers, their business depends on grazing permissions on federal land. But their livelihoods are threatened by rules that set aside over 65-million acres of fed ...

Vaping Litigation

The Constitution going up in vapor

Electronic nicotine delivery systems—vaping devices and e-cigarettes—first hit U.S. stores in 2007. It didn’t take long for vaping to jump from zero to a $5 billion domestic industry, as entrepreneurs quickly recognized a market hungry for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. In 2016, just as the burgeoning vaping industry was gettin ...

Bears Ears National Monument Litigation

Defending public lands access for all

In December 2016, under cover of the Antiquities Act, President Obama unilaterally created the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument. One year later, President Trump slashed the size of the monument by 85 percent—to around 200,000 acres, freeing up more than one million acres for public use. Outerwear retailer Patagonia, environmental gr ...

Town of Coos Bay, Oregon v. National Marine Fisheries Service

Endangered Species Act abuse forces federal zoning control on local communities

Federal bureaucrats are twisting environmental and emergency management law to control zoning across Oregon, including its treasured coastal regions. At issue is a National Marine Fisheries Service opinion that governs FEMA’s national flood insurance program. Under the rule, local communities wanting federal flood insurance must abstain from ...

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February 06, 2020

The Hill: Speeding up environmental reviews is good for the economy and the environment

In 2011, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum urging federal agencies to "take steps to expedite permitting and review," including "setting clear schedules for completing steps in the environmental review and permitting process." Such bureaucratic delays, Obama explained, interfered with the "engine of job creation and economic growth." ...

December 06, 2019

The Hill: In pollution case, the Supreme Court should side with property rights

At 585 feet, the Anaconda Smelter Stack looms large over rural western Montana. The Washington Monument-sized pillar stands as a reminder of the state's mining history and, to neighboring landowners, of the tons of toxic pollutants dumped on them and their properties for decades. The smokestack is the center of a Supreme Court case heard ...

November 22, 2019

Polluters and the EPA are trying to block property owners from suing polluters

Every day for nearly 100 years, a copper smelter in Montana spewed tons of toxic metals, arsenic, and lead from its smokestacks onto its neighbors. Those neighbors are suing Atlantic Richfield, the company that now owns the smelter, demanding that it restore their land to its original, healthy condition. But Atlantic Richfield, with the support ...

November 15, 2019

The Guardian criticizes Endangered Species Act reform that will help recover more endangered species

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is intended to protect and recover rare species. Yet instead of achieving these goals, the ESA has counterproductively imposed burdensome and costly regulations on landowners who preserved those species' habitat. For decades, PLF has pushed to correct this basic flaw in the law, recognizing that an Endangered Specie ...

October 15, 2019

The Hill: When agencies regulate in secret, none of us is safe

Imagine what it must feel like to have a government agent show up at your door, accuse you of violating some rule you've never heard of, and threaten you with massive fines and imprisonment if you don't do what he says. Wyoming's Andy Johnson doesn't have to imagine; he lived it. His alleged offense: he ...

October 09, 2019

Our fight with EPA: Andy Johnson’s story in his own words

Today, the president is signing an executive order designed to bring more accountability to federal agencies. This executive order comes partly as a result of PLF research and cases battling bureaucratic overreach. PLF client Andy Johnson will be at the signing ceremony. Below is an article from 2016 that Andy wrote describing, in his own ...

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