Peter A Allard School of Law

In Their Own Words: Plaintiffs & Their Lawyers Speak About Youth Climate Cases, Part 3 – Held v State of Montana

Centre for the Law and the Environment Assistant

Centre for the Law and the Environment Assistant

Feb 7, 2024

info for event

On February 7, 2024 the Centre for Law and the Environment held part three of a four-part series on youth climate cases. The series, "In Their Own Words: Plaintiffs and Their Lawyers Speak About Leading Youth Climate Cases", covered four leading cases from Canada and the US in which youth are demanding climate accountability and action from their government. Each session in the series delved into a particular case and attendees got to learn about the case from one of the youth plaintiffs and one of their lawyers. Part 3 focused on Held v State of Montana.


About Held v. State of Montana


Held v State of Montana was the first constitutional climate trial in the US. In August 2023, the First Judicial District Court of Montana ruled wholly in favor of sixteen youth plaintiffs, declaring that the state of Montana violated the youth’s constitutional rights, including their rights to equal protection, dignity, liberty, health and safety, and public trust, which are all predicated on their right to a clean and healthful environment. The court invalidated as unconstitutional Montana laws that promoted fossil fuels and required turning a blind eye to climate change. The court also ruled that the youth plaintiffs had proven their standing to bring the case by showing significant injuries, the government’s substantial role in causing them, and that a judgement in their favor would change the government’s conduct.

The decision, the first of its kind in the US, is considered to set crucial evidentiary and legal precedent for the right of youth to a safe climate.  

Access the Recording


This session is eligible for 1 hour of CPD credit.


About the Speakers

headshot of Nate

Nate Bellinger

Nate Bellinger earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts before moving to Oregon. After spending three years working as a firefighter, ski instructor, and rafting guide, Nate returned to school and earned a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Oregon. His thesis documented the social and environmental impacts of Ecuador’s commercial tuna fishing industry. Nate then decided to pursue a law degree to develop an additional skill set to fight for solutions to the multitude of injustices in the world, and in 2014, graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law.

As a Senior Staff Attorney at Our Children’s Trust, Nate works to protect the constitutional rights of youth to a stable climate system and advocates for science-based solutions to the climate crisis. Nate’s scholarship has been published in the ABA magazine, Natural Resources & Environment, and the Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy. When not at work, you can find Nate working in his garden, running in the woods, or exploring the Pacific Northwest’s magnificent lakes and forests with his family.

headshot of claire

Claire Vlases

Since middle school, Claire has been taking action to address the climate crisis. She started a Solar Club and raised enough money to install solar panels on the roof of her school. However, due to a cap on solar power in the state’s law, Claire’s school was not able to run solely on renewable energy. It was at that young age that Claire had her first experience with how her state government has impeded climate solutions.

Growing up in Bozeman, her favorite activities have always been outdoors - skiing, biking, running, and hiking. Seasonally, she works as a ski instructor at a ski resort. However, due to decreasing snowpack, Claire’s shifts are oftentimes canceled, negatively impacting her ability to work and make money. Declining snowpack and drought conditions also reducing water flow through Bozeman Creek, which is the main water source for her family and their garden.


info on whole series

  • Centre for Law and the Environment
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