Notes From the Field: Catherine Rocchi '19

Catherine Rocchi '19 interned at the Crag Law Center, a public interest environmental law firm based in Portland, Oregon, during the 2018 Summer Term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

Crag lawyers provide clients—usually other nonprofits—with free or low-cost legal services in line with the organization’s mission to protect and sustain the Pacific Northwest’s natural legacy. In addition, Crag may supplement these legal services with assistance on campaign strategies, communications, community organizing and media relations.

This summer, I worked with Co-Executive Director and Staff Attorney Ralph Bloemers to influence the discourse around wildfire in the Pacific Northwest. Through independent research, client interviews, and discussion with Mr. Bloemers, I worked to disentangle timber industry propaganda from the best available science on wildfire and forest management. The more I learned, the more I realized that wildfire prevention and rehabilitation practices are interconnected with climate change, Wall Street forest ownership, water quality, and even Oregon taxation policy. One term-long project involved enabling Oregon voters to “keep their eye on the ball” by distilling this complex system into a series of short, palatable articles free of scientific and legal jargon. This project also required synthesizing focus group data to identify areas of interest and create a communications strategy around wildfire issues.

I also had the privilege of interacting with clients in the field. These outings included multiple expeditions to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. There, Mr. Bloemers and I worked with Trailkeepers of Oregon, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, and other clients to investigate and document the forest’s natural recovery after last summer’s Eagle Creek Fire. We also spent a day sharing positive fire messaging with children in Cascade Locks, one of the towns evacuated during the fire.

I learned a lot about wildfires this summer—especially because I grew up on the East Coast, where wet, humid summers render wildfire a non-issue. This topic allowed me to bear witness to the same governance issues I’ve learned about in social science courses at Dartmouth. Applying academic frameworks to real-world situations was both exciting and challenging; I understand these concepts all the better for watching them play out in Oregon and will continue to incorporate them into my work and worldview.

My experience at Crag Law Center also strengthened my desire to work in public interest environmental law. When I asked Mr. Bloemers and other colleagues why they became lawyers, their answers were very similar: they saw an imbalance of power in the world and sought a career that would enable them to address that imbalance. Working at Crag led me to the conclusion that becoming a lawyer is the best way for me to leverage my privilege and abilities to effect change. I am deeply grateful to both the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Henry Leach III ’28 Memorial Fund for facilitating this experience.

The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.