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The Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. David Bear

Lawsuit Seeks Personhood Rights for Colorado River

A lawsuit filed Monday is seeking to establish personhood rights for the Colorado River--a unique move that could have larger implications for environmental law.

The suit, brought by Denver lawyer Jason Flores-Williams against Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper, names the river itself as a plaintiff and environmental group Deep Green Resistance as an ally of the body of water to appear in court on its behalf.


Flores-Williams says the suit is intended to force humans to take better care of natural resources by creating a legal consequence for inaction. The river, which supplies water for 36 million people in seven states, has been egregiously overused, and studies have shown climate change is already causing the river to shrink.

As reported by the New York Times:

"If a corporation has rights, the authors argue, so, too, should an ancient waterway that has sustained human life for as long as it has existed in the Western United States. The lawsuit claims the state violated the river's right to flourish by polluting and draining it and threatening endangered species. The claim cites several nations whose courts or governments have recognized some rights for natural entities."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times

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