Sandra Zellmer

Professor, Natural Resources and Environmental Law Program


Law 307
(406) 243-6653
Curriculum Vitae
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Personal Summary

Sandra Zellmer is a Professor and Director of Natural Resources Clinics at the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law, where she teaches public lands, wildlife law, torts, and related courses. Zellmer has published dozens of law review articles as well as several books, including A Century of Unnatural Disasters: Mississippi River Stories (NYU 2014) (with Klein), Water Law in a Nutshell (2015) (with Getches and Amos), Natural Resources Hornbook (2015) (with Laitos), Developing Skills in Environmental Law (2016) (with Glicksman), and Water Law & Policy Casebook (2018) (with Thompson, Abrams, and Leshy). Zellmer was appointed to the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2020.  She has served as a board member and law school trustee of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, and is a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is active with the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources Committees on Public Lands and on Water Resources.

Prior to Montana, Zellmer served on the faculty and held the Robert B. Daugherty Chair at the University of Nebraska College of Law. Before teaching, she was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, litigating public lands issues for the National Park Service, Forest Service, and other federal agencies. She also practiced law in the Environmental Litigation Group at Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and clerked for the Honorable William W. Justice, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas.


The George Washington University National Law Center, Washington, DC

  • Degree: LL.M.—Environmental Law, with Highest Honors
  • Awards: Shaw Fellowship

University of South Dakota School of Law, Vermillion, SD

  • Degree: Juris Doctor, Sterling Honor Graduate (1st in class)
  • Awards: Joe Robbie Award; Nat’l Order of Barristers; Moot Ct. Board; ABA Moot Ct. Competition (national finals)

Morningside College, Sioux City, IA

  • Degree: Bachelor of Science, magna cum laude

Courses Taught

Montana:  Public Lands; Wildlife; Water Law; Torts; Environmental Justice & Practice; Natural Resources Clinic

Nebraska:  Environmental Law; Environmental Ethics; Disaster Law; Water Law; Natural Resources; Torts

Previous Positions, Visitorships, and Summer Programs:  Comparative Environmental Law (Auckland and Lewis & Clark); Toxic & Environmental Torts and Advanced Environmental Law (Tulane); Disaster Law (Pepperdine); Property (Drake and Toledo)

Teaching Experience

Professor, University of Montana ABIII School of Law, Missoula, MT

- Thomas and Ann Boone Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship

Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, NE 

Robert B. Daugherty Chair

- McCollum/Hevelone Research Chair

- Law Alumni Teaching Award

Associate Professor, University of Toledo College of Law

Visitorships and Summer Programs:  

Disaster Law (Pepperdine); Comparative Environmental Law at Univ. of Auckland (New Zealand), Tulane (Spetses, Greece), and Lewis & Clark Law School (Portland, OR); Toxic & Environmental Torts and Advanced Environmental Law (Tulane); Environmental Law, Federal Indian Law, and Property (Drake)



Research Interests

Public lands, wildlife, water law, environmental law, disaster law, federalism, takings


Recent projects include:

Conserving 30 Percent of Lands and Waters by 2030 (30 x 30) for Biodiversity and Climate Resilience: 

Fulbright Specialist Award at Univ. of Calgary Faculty of Law (2022)

Charting a Course to Conserve 30% of Freshwaters by 2030, 64 William & Mary L. Rev. (f.2022)

A Critical 21st Century Role for Public Land Management: Conserving 30% of Lands and Waters Beyond 2030 (with Glicksman), 54 Ariz. St. L.J. (f.2023)

       Species Conservation and Recovery Through Adequate Regulatory Mechanisms, 44 Harv. Env. L. Rev. 367 (with Panarella and Wood) (2020)

Theodore Roosevelt:  Of Mice and Men, Birds and Bison, in Pioneers of Environmental Law (12 Tables Press 2020)

Waiving Federal Sovereign Immunity in Original Actions Between States, 55 Michigan Journal of Law Reform 101 (2020) (a previous version was awarded "Best Paper" at the 2019 ABA Water Law Conference)

Water Law in a Nutshell (with Amos) (West 6th ed. 2021)

Natural Resources Law: A Concise Hornbook (with Laitos) (West 2nd ed. 2021)

Recent presentations include:

What's Healthcare Got To Do With Clean Air? The Clean Air Act Constitutionality Debate

A Festschrift for Professor Dale Goble

RMMLF Special Institute on Endangered Species and Other Wildlife

University of Denver Carver Colloquium: NEPA Debate -- Does NEPA Protect the Environment or Obstruct Progress?

The ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources 37th Water Law Conference:  Interstate Disputes

Video Lectures, Podcasts, and Recent Blogs:  

Unnatural Disasters: How Law Hurts, How Law Helps (Vermont Distinguished Environmental Scholar Lecture)

Treading Water, Just Barely: Congressional Apathy Toward the Nation's Environment (Nebraska Law STIR Talk)

Yale Podcast On The Environment: Finding Agency Through Humility: Unnatural Disasters and American Law

Still Flooding After All These Years

Unnatural Disasters and Environmental Injustice

Opinion Analysis: The Justices Wish Sturgeon 'Good Hunting' in Sturgeon v. Frost

Trump's Plan to Dismantle National Monuments Comes with Steep Cultural and Ecological Costs


For articles, see http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=651859.

Books and other publications are listed on my cv.


National Affiliations and Awards include:

National Academy of Sciences National Research Council--Missouri River Recovery Committee

American College of Environmental Lawyers

Board of Directors and Trustee, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation

Senior Specialist Roster, Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board

Member Scholar, Center for Progressive Reform

ABA Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources: Chair, Marine Resources Committee (2002-04); Vice-Chair, Public Lands Committee (2012-present)

Board of Directors, Society for Wilderness Stewardship

Board of Directors, Northern Prairies Land Trust




Professional Experience

U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC (1994-97)

     -  Trial Attorney, Environment & Natural Resources Division General Litigation Section

The Honorable William Wayne JusticeU.S. Dist. Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler, TX (1992-93)

     -  Law Clerk

Faegre & BensonMinneapolis, MN (1990-92)

      - Attorney—General Litigation & Environmental Law Practice Groups 

International Experience

Canada-US Transboundary Resource Management, Faculty of Law, Univ. of Calgary, AB, Canada

Pipelines & Protests, Univ. of Alberta Law Centre, Edmonton AB, Canada

The Role of Law in Disaster Management, World Water Congress, Edinburgh, Scotland

Legal Issues for Protected Areas, IUCN World Parks Congress, Sydney, Australia

Water Law, Conservation & Climate Adaptation, IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, Jeju, Korea

U.S. Water Law ABC’s, M.S. Swaminathan Foundation, Chennai, India

University of Auckland College of Law Interim Session, Comparative Envtl. Law Class, Auckland, NZ

'Tulane Law School Summer Program, Comparative Envtl. Law Class, Spetses Greece

Book: Comparative Environmental & Natural Resources Law (Carolina Press)

Honors / Awards

Robert B. Daugherty Chair, University of Nebraska (2010-18)

Faculty Scholarship Award, University of Montana School of Law (2019)

Alumni Council Distinguished Faculty Award, University of Nebraska College of Law  (2016)

Robert B. Daugherty Faculty Fellow, University of Nebraska (2015-18)

McCollum/Hevelone Research Chair,  University of Nebraska College of Law (2006-2010)

Attorney General’s Special Achievement Award, U.S. Department of Justice (1997)


Sandra grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa, where five generations of her family have raised cattle, poultry, and crops for over a century.  She bought her first car, a 1973 VW beetle, with money she made raising hogs and bailing hay.  She attended K-12 in Sergeant-Bluff Luton schools, and stayed close to home for college and law school. Since law school, Zellmer has traveled extensively for career and pleasure, ranging from Minneapolis to Texas to DC and beyond. She has called Montana home since 2017.

In her free time, Zellmer slakes her passion for the outdoors by hiking, trail-running, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and paddling, often in the National Forests and Parks of the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Colorado. She is an avid knitter, an amateur pianist, and a devoted greyhound servant.