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E-law event widens its net.

Byline: Rebecca Woolington The Register-Guard

With an impressive array of panels and speakers, this week's 28th annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon will cover topics ranging from fighting coal power plants to promoting grass-roots environmental activism.

But in an effort to attract a more general audience, organizers have also nabbed a family of cable television stars with local roots to speak during the event.

Eugene native Terri Irwin, wife of the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, will give an opening keynote address on Thursday. Irwin owns the Australia Zoo in Queensland, Australia.

She will be joined by her two children, Bindi, 11, and Robert, 6, who will lead a "Kid Empowerment" event Thursday afternoon to help kick off the conference, which has adopted "Recover, Renew and Reimagine" as its theme.

Organized by the UO student environmental law organization Land Air Water, the event is said to be the oldest and largest environmental law conference in the world. Organizers expect more than 2,500 attendees.

Longtime conference participant Jennifer Gleason, staff attorney for the Eugene-based nonprofit Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, isn't surprised the event has become such a spectacle.

"It's an amazing opportunity to get re-inspired and recharge batteries," said Gleason, who as a UO law student in 1993 helped organize the conference.

Addresses will be presented by 13 keynote speakers, including environmental attorneys, professors, scientists and activists from around the globe.

ELAW member Rizwana Hasan, executive director of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, will give the closing keynote address on Sunday. Hasan was named one of Time magazine's "Heroes of the Environment" in 2009.

Terri Irwin, who became known as the "Crocodile Huntress," joined her husband to begin Wildlife Warriors Worldwide, a nonprofit wildlife conservation organization now operating independently. The Irwins are best known for their television appearances on Animal Planet's "The Crocodile Hunter" and in the movie "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course."

Steve Irwin died in September 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming near Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Terri Irwin contacted organizers about getting involved in the conference, said Davis Smith, a second-year UO environmental law student and conference co-director. Smith said he had some initial concerns about how Irwin's addition to the conference would jibe with some of the more academic attendees. But he said he's received nothing but positive feedback.

"I think her expertise is in getting the message of conservation out to a wide audience," he said. "Having the Irwins is a great way to expand the message more than we have before."

Irwin's two children are celebrities in their own right. Along with being featured in her father's show, Bindi has starred in television programs including "Bindi the Jungle Girl."

Bindi and Robert will discuss the future of environmental and wildlife conservation, with the goal of teaching children how they can help conservation efforts.

"We're bringing in the next generation - people who are too young to even be thinking about law school," said Smith, adding that he believes the children's event is the first of its kind at the conference.

Smith said the event, planned for the UO's Erb Memorial Union ballroom, quickly filled up with about 780 free tickets claimed.

Mary Wood, UO law professor and faculty director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, said she fully embraces the goal of expanding the conference's audience scope - and plans to take her children to the Bindi and Robert Irwin event.

"The broader the better," she said. "Not everyone needs to know environmental law, but everyone needs to know environmental rights. The environment affects everyone on earth; there's nowhere to hide."


When/Where: Thursday through Sunday at the University of Oregon.

What: More than 150 panels, workshops and multimedia presentations covering multiple facets of environmental law and advocacy

For more information: Visit
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Title Annotation:City/Region; "Crocodile Huntress" Terri Irwin and her children bring new dimensions to the annual UO conference
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Feb 22, 2010
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