James McElfish

We deliver insightful and impartial analysis to opinion makers, including government officials, environmental and business leaders, academics, members of the environmental bar, and journalists. ELI is a clearinghouse and a town hall, providing common ground for debate on important environmental issues.

The Institute advances innovation and pragmatic solutions to environmental challenges through its Publications and Associates group. We publish the Environmental Law Reporter®, The Environmental Forum®, the National Wetlands Newsletter, and books on environmental law and policy. We educate and build bridges among the various environmental stakeholders through ELI’s membership program, which convenes environmental professionals from all sectors and offers seminars on timely topics presented by leading experts and practitioners.

The Institute’s Research and Policy group produces research reports and policy recommendations on critical areas of environmental governance. Our work is primarily focused on protecting water resources, land, and biodiversity and improving environmental law and its implementation in the U.S. and internationally. Capacity building programs for public officials, judges, citizens, and factory managers are a large part of ELI’s agenda.

The Institute is governed by a board of directors who present a balanced mix of leaders within the environmental profession and others who support strengthening environmental law and policy. Support for the Institute comes from individuals, foundations, government, corporations, law firms, and other sources.

Jim McElfish’s research focuses on development choices and their links to water resources, biological diversity, and infrastructure policy. ELI’s Sustainable Use of Land Program makes connections among state laws, policies, taxes, investments, and land use outcomes. McElfish served as representative of the natural environment on the American Planning Association’s multi-year Growing Smarter Legislative Guidebook Directorate. McElfish also leads ELI programs on water resources, examining how watersheds and resources can be evaluated, used, conserved, and restored. He is a nationally recognized authority on NEPA and a former litigator in private practice and with the Department of the Interior. McElfish has been an ELI Senior Attorney since 1986.


  • Biodiversity: biological diversity—state strategies and local ordinances and policies
  • Judiciary: land use—links between development and infrastructure policies
  • Law: National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)—implementation, litigation, and public participation; state environmental law—state stringency and comparative programs
  • Water: Chesapeake Bay—laws and policies in the Bay region states; nonpoint source (runoff) water pollution—federal, state, and local control strategies

Contact James McElfish

Contact James McElfish

Environmental Law Institute
Senior Attorney and Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
2000 L Street, NW,
Suite 620
Washington, DC  20036
Phone: (202) 939-3840
Fax: 202-939-3868


Service Area

Statewide service provider in:
  • DC