My name is Melodie Meyer and I am starting this year off right — as EPIC’s new Conservation Attorney. I’m from Rio Rancho, New Mexico and am an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna. I’ve been living in California for 8 years and in Humboldt for 3 years.
My family taught me to love the outdoors. We camped, fished, hiked, or sometimes we just loaded into the car with lunches packed to take a drive into the mountains. Through my cultural practices and teachings, I gained a deep appreciation and respect for the Earth and what we call plant and animal relatives.
But my interest in environmental justice and environmental defense began in college where I researched and led campaigns to address environmental disasters such as the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill and abandoned uranium mines across the Southwest. I was particularly interested in understanding how these disasters disproportionately affected indigenous peoples. I remember feeling angry and full of disbelief when agencies or companies refused to even listen to how tribal communities needed help. I remember feeling like I wasn’t doing enough to bring justice to families who had been hurt by someone else’s poor decision making or, worse, total lack of care.
During college I also interned with my Tribe’s Natural Resources Department, where I shadowed staff during environmental monitoring and reporting. I was amazed by all of the different species that lived on the Laguna Reservation. I couldn’t believe how much wildlife there was despite the relatively small habitat left after ranching, mining, and the railroad came through our community.
After graduating from the University of New Mexico with a major in Native American Studies, I was determined to go to law school to empower myself. I really didn’t understand what a lawyer did, but at the very least I wanted to educate myself on environmental protection laws and the dark history of laws dealing with tribes in the United States.
In 2020, I graduated from the University of California Los Angeles School of Law with specializations in Indian Law and Environmental Law. During law school, I had the opportunity to intern for Fredericks, Peebles, and Patterson, LLP, an Indian Law firm and the Wishtoyo Foundation, a Malibu-based environmental nonprofit organization that focused on protecting Chumash Tribal Cultural Resources.
I moved to Humboldt shortly after graduating law school to work for the Yurok Tribe, first as a Justice Catalyst/Public Rights Project Legal Fellow and then as Associate General Counsel. At the Yurok Tribe, I worked on a number of issues including enforcement of Yurok Tribal environmental laws, Klamath River restoration, Tribal water rights, Yurok Tribal Cultural Resource protection, and other environmental issues. I have fallen in love with the North Coast and have absorbed the environmental issues important to our communities — forest protection, endangered species conservation, and climate change along the coast.
I’m excited to begin working at EPIC, not only to continue my focus on environmental defense work but also to reconnect to my environmental justice roots. EPIC’s mission to work with marginalized communities to address environmental issues from a multifaceted angle — understanding that human rights, tribal sovereignty, and social justice are connected to conservation — is right up my alley. My background and identity will give me the tools necessary to make this role impactful for our community on the North Coast.
In my role as Conservation Attorney, I will shape policy actions that make up EPIC’s core conservation program areas — Public Lands, Biodiversity Defense, and Clean Water & Healthy Rivers — and help manage EPIC’s litigation docket. I am so honored to work with and learn from the EPIC staff and members who make this work possible.
Beginning on Monday, February 5th, please feel free to reach out with any questions at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!