Skip to content

David Sive, Environmental Law Pioneer

David Sive 9

David Sive was not only the founder of our Firm; he was known as the father of environmental law. His passing in March 2014 brought deep sadness not only to our Firm, but to the environmental community and everyone who knew him. He was eulogized in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Law Journal, the American College of Environmental Lawyers website and the Natural Resources Defense Council website and blog. David quickly became an authority in the field of environmental law with myriad precedent-setting cases. He was one of the first lawyers to bring litigation effectuating the “forever wild” provisions of the New York State Constitution, and litigated a number of cases protecting the environment in his beloved Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

In the 1960s, David played a leading role in the administrative and judicial proceedings that prevented the construction of a power plant on Storm King Mountain along the Hudson River, and helped to establish aesthetics as a recognized environmental value. He prevented the construction of the proposed Hudson River Expressway (a precursor of the ill-fated Westway Project). He challenged up to the U.S. Supreme Court the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s testing of atomic weapons off Alaska’s Amchitka Island, and litigated the principal case establishing that the military is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act. In a landmark case decided by the New York Court of Appeals, David established that the preservation of wilderness areas for the benefit of the public serves charitable, educational, and moral purposes and entitles nature preserves to the tax-exempt status that is essential to their survival. David was previously a member of the adjunct faculty of Columbia and Pace Law Schools and the founder of several continuing legal education courses for the Environmental Law Institute and the American Law Institute-American Bar Association. David’s lectures and written scholarship, including an environmental column in the National Law Journal and articles in numerous law reviews, further helped to shape the field of environmental law.

David also played a critical role in the creation of the Environmental Law Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other prominent national environmental organizations, as well as scores of regional and local entities. In 2013, the Environmental Law Institute honored him and his lasting legacy by creating the David Sive Society. In 2014, the Firm established the David Sive Memorial Fund at Columbia Law School in order to promote the study of environmental law. David’s love of nature and the outdoors is evident in his plea — which he wrote at age 20 — that the New York Times’ Woods, Field and Stream column devote more coverage to hiking, mountain climbing, and other outdoor activities. When SPR celebrated our 50th Anniversary in December 2012, David recorded a video message about the Firm.

We miss him greatly.