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Federal lawsuit seeks human rights for Colorado River


If you make it human, it can sue.

Such are the sentiments behind a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed Monday in Federal District Court in Denver by a local lawyer, backed by an environmental group, asking a judge to recognize the Colorado River as a person, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The lawsuit, accessed by the Times, names the entire river ecosystem as the plaintiff and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper liable for infringing on the river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve.”

The premise of the suit — if successful — could cause a ripple effect in environmental law, possibly allowing lands, rivers and other natural wonders to sue individuals, corporations and governments over pollution or depletion, the Times reported. And future lawsuits could seek to block development and force states, cities and towns to rethink how they treat the environment, according to the article.

The problem, as several environmental law experts told the Times, is the suit isn’t likely to be a success.

“I don’t think it’s laughable,” Reed Benson, chairman of the environmental law program at the University of New Mexico, told a reporter. “But I think it’s a long shot in more ways than one.”