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Eureka environmental lawyer William Verick pays Berkeley solo Sharon Duggan one of the highest compliments one attorney can give another: She’s the reason he’s in his current line of work. Verick, a staff attorney for the Klamath Environmental Law Center, says he first met Duggan years ago while working at his own office in Oakland. She was heavy into forestry cases, and he was deeply impressed by her commitment to the cause. “Sharon’s a total inspiration,” Verick says. “I owe her a lot for how my whole life has turned out.” Duggan, 52, has turned a lot of heads over the past 25 years, taking on timber giants such as Pacific Lumber & Shipping Co. and Georgia-Pacific Corp., as well as the state and federal forest services. “If you look at the case law on [California's] Forest Practices Act,” says Iryna Kwasny, senior staff attorney for Oakland’s Environmental Law Foundation, “Sharon is the attorney on almost every single one.” Duggan’s first big case was 1985′s Environmental Protection Information Center v. Johnson , 170 Cal.App.3d 604, which held that state agencies must consider the cumulative effects of logging on water quality, soil and wildlife habitat when reviewing logging plans in watersheds. That saved the Sally Bell Grove, the last old-growth redwood grove in Humboldt County’s lost coast and led to the founding of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Duggan’s gone on to make a career of challenging lumber companies and government agencies that aren’t complying with forestry practices. Just two years ago, she persuaded a judge to void a federally approved environmental impact statement for fuel-break zones because it failed to take into account the need for massive herbicide sprays. “She’s a warrior,” says Oakland Deputy Attorney General Tara Mueller, who handles many environmental cases. “She’s somebody who really is very principled and is willing to go to the ends of the earth to do what’s necessary.” A humble Duggan, who graduated from Sacramento’s McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific with honors in 1982, says her desire to fight for the forests came from her life among them in Humboldt County. “I grew up in the area,” she says, “and had a love for the natural environment, and particularly the redwoods and the rivers. Those were the days when fish were plentiful.” Duggan’s also proud to say that about 3,800 acres of the tract she saved in her first case — the part that didn’t become a state park — were recently sold by the California Coastal Conservancy to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council to create the nation’s first inter-tribal park. “For me,” she says, “it was full circle.”

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