Transition: Veteran Los Angeles Litigator Becomes NRDC’s Western Director

California Environmental Leader Joel Reynolds Succeeds Felicia Marcus, Appointed to California State Water Board

LOS ANGELES (September 4, 2012) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council today named long-time California environmental lawyer Joel Reynolds to be its Western Director, the organization’s top institutional representative in the West.  NRDC is one of the country’s largest and most influential environmental advocacy organizations, working to protect people’s health, their communities, and the environment.

Headquartered in New York City, NRDC opened its first California office in San Francisco more than 40 years ago and a southern California office in 1990.  Now with almost 100 staff in the state – and 430 nationally -- NRDC is widely seen as a champion of clean and efficient energy, smart transportation solutions, and wild land, oceans and health protections.  NRDC was a lead architect of signal California environmental achievements, including the Global Warming Solutions law, the Marine Life Protection Act and resulting network of coastal marine reserves, the restoration of the severely depleted San Joaquin River, and the greening of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“Joel Reynolds has been an environmental leader in California for decades, with a singular record of advocacy for people, for communities, and for wildlife, and he will be an outstanding representative for NRDC throughout California and the West,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “As we fight for cleaner and more efficient energy and transportation systems that protect our climate, our open spaces, our fisheries, and the health of our families, Joel will play a critical leadership role for NRDC and our expanding community of supporters and partners in the West.”

The post of Western Director was previously held by Felicia Marcus, who served from its creation in 2008 until Governor Jerry Brown appointed her in June to a seat on the California Water Quality Control Board.

Reynolds has a 32-year history of environmental litigation and advocacy, including 22 years with NRDC in Los Angeles.  He has twice been selected California Attorney of the Year in the environmental law category, first in 2003 and again in 2008, and, in 2009, he was recognized by Senator Barbara Boxer with the first annual Environmental Leadership Award.  In 2012, he was selected Chairman of the Board of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, one of California’s largest land trusts.  He has directed NRDC’s southern California program since 1995.

“Nowhere are the stakes higher than in the race to heal our planet, and no organization is better suited to meet that challenge than NRDC,” Reynolds said. “But this challenge is an opportunity for all of us, because environmental protection is a collective determination to preserve the natural resources that sustain us all.   Clean air, clean water, wild spaces, and healthy, vibrant communities.  This is the work of NRDC.” 

Among his achievements, Reynolds played a leadership role in negotiating one of the largest conservation agreements in California history -- preserving a quarter million acres of land at Tejon Ranch; creating state parks along the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles at the Chinatown Cornfield and Taylor Yard; ending the illegal discharge of hundreds of millions of gallons per day of inadequately treated sewage into Santa Monica Bay; protecting San Onofre State Park in south Orange County from construction of a major toll road; and cleaning-up of the Stringfellow Acid Pits, a Superfund toxic waste site in Riverside County,

Reynolds has led some of NRDC’s largest campaigns, including a celebrated international environmental battle against Mitsubishi Corporation that preserved the last undisturbed breeding lagoon of the California gray whale, at Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Since 1994, he has spearheaded NRDC’s successful efforts to reduce ocean noise pollution, including a series of successful lawsuits challenging the U.S. Navy’s uncontrolled use of high intensity active sonar around the world.  Most recently, he has directed NRDC’s campaign to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from construction of the Pebble Mine, a massive gold and copper mine proposed for construction at the headwaters of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery. 

“Joel understands what it takes today to accomplish our health, clean energy, and wildlife protection goals, and he exemplifies NRDC’s values of integrity, persistence, and adherence to sound science, solid economics, and the law,” said Peter Lehner, NRDC’s executive director. “NRDC is a central player in the environmental community; we collaborate with the widest range of actors and voices, and Joel has the experience and credibility to represent NRDC well with our allies in the West.”

Reynolds has been appointed to various state and federal commissions and has frequently contributed to the opinion pages of major media like The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, and other newspapers in California.  His latest law review article describes in detail some of his recent work at NRDC.    

Prior to joining NRDC in 1990, Reynolds spent a decade with the Center for Law in the Public Interest and two years with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, both in Los Angeles.  From 1986 to 1990, he was an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California Law Center.  He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1978.