Michael Martinez Recognized for Efforts to Restore Oceans and Lakes
Michael Martinez JD ’07 was in town from Washington DC last semester, when he offered to meet up with a group of current law students exploring careers in our Nation’s Capital. Michael, who attended Hamline Law as a weekend student while serving as a project and team manager at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, landed a job with the Obama Administration in 2009.
[Sidebar: Michael Martinez Advises Students and Alumni on Career Networking - use photo here of Mike Martinez in conference room with students]
Michael was appointed by the White House as a Special Assistant to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conversation Service. Since 2013, Michael’s job has expanded to include serving as an advising attorney in the USDA Office of General Counsel.
With his JD and a master’s degree in environmental studies, Michael’s work has focused on the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since the spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Michael has provided leadership in the development of plans to use the $3.5 billion, paid to date by defendants as criminal fines and civil penalties, to restore the natural resources of the Gulf ecosystem. These planning efforts include coordination with the impacted states’ governments as well as the U.S. Departments of Justice, Interior and Commerce, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard.
In November, the EPA recognized the leadership of USDA staff, including Michael, with the Office of Water Bronze Medal award for contributions to the Obama Administration's National Ocean Policy, which facilitates greater cooperation and fosters efficiencies between federal, state, local and Tribal jurisdictions. Through Farm Bill programs, USDA provides financial incentives to farmers to implement voluntary conservation practices, which reduce the run-off of excess nutrients from fields that could ultimately reach oceans, the Great Lakes and coasts. For example, these on-farm practices help to reduce nutrient loads that contribute to the hypoxic dead zone in the Gulf and harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
Through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, Mike’s first assignment at USDA involved the acquisition and restoration of floodplain easements from farmers throughout the Midwest to prevent future flood losses and restore habitat for migratory birds. This led to the exciting discovery of endangered whooping cranes on these easements in Kentucky and Illinois over the past two migration seasons.
“While the Recovery Act brought the economy back from the brink of collapse,” said Michael, “so too is the USDA helping bring the endangered whooping crane back from the brink of extinction.” Michael noted that whooping cranes populations are so diminished that the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin is hatching and raising these birds in captivity to join nesting grounds in Texas and Florida. The foundation teaches the young cranes how to migrate using ultralight aircraft, with resting and feeding stops along the way on USDA-managed easements and other critical habitat, before they reach their final destinations down south.
Another USDA Recovery Act project Michael oversaw provided $625,000 to help the Confederated Colville Tribe and other federal agencies remove barriers to salmon migration on Omak Creek in eastern Washington State. In 2012, Michael led another effort to invest $2 million in additional Farm Bill conservation program funding to restore 19 miles of fish habitat by removing under-sized culverts and other migration barriers in the Puget Sound region in cooperation with farmers, local governments, and Indian tribes.
Michael considers his Hamline Law JD to have been a worthwhile investment. “I adore the Hamline Law faculty because of their sincere desire to develop legal talent in their students.”