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Vermont Law School Professor, Trustee To Receive Yale Merit Award

April 16, 2010

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- Vermont Law School Professor James Gustave "Gus" Speth and VLS Trustee Richard Ayres, two of the nation's most respected environmental lawyers, will receive Yale Law School's highest honor.

The Yale Law School Association recently voted to present its Award of Merit jointly to Speth, Ayres, Edward Strohbehn, Jr., and John Bryson.

Yale's Award of Merit has been given annually since 1957 to esteemed Yale Law School graduates or faculty members who have made a substantial contribution to public service or to the legal profession. Previous recipients include former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton. The award will be presented at Yale Law School's Alumni Weekend in the fall.

This year's recipients were cited for their pioneering role in creating the Natural Resources Defense Council, which was founded in 1970 by a group of law students and attorneys at the forefront of the environmental movement and who helped write some of America's bedrock environmental laws. Today, the NRDC is one of the nation's most influential environmental organizations.

"Your achievement in creating the NRDC is overwhelming in its elegance, force and consequences," Yale Law School Dean Robert Post told the recipients. "In the course of its stellar history, NRDC has affected legislation and judicial decision-making in all areas of environmental law. It has influenced research, policy analysis, litigation, lobbying and education. Each of you has enjoyed an extraordinary career in environmental law."

Speth and Ayres said they were honored to receive the award.

"It is wonderful to have the NRDC recognized in this way," said Speth, the former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who will join the Vermont Law School faculty this summer. "As for the four of us, the truth is that there were others in our law class and those right behind us that also went into environmental groups and made huge contributions over the years. It was the environment's moment."

"While I appreciate receiving this award, I must accept it on behalf of the hundreds of people who in subsequent years worked to make NRDC the effective and powerful force for environmental protection that it has become," said Ayres, principal of the Ayres Law Group in Washington, D.C.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations

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