In 2020, 16 young people sued the state of Montana over climate change.
They argued that by not considering climate change when permitting the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, the state had violated their right to a clean and healthful environment, which is protected by the Montana state constitution.
This summer, they won their case.
“I was really grateful to be up there and get to tell my story and have the chance to have it matter,” says 22-year-old Rikki Held, the lead plaintiff in Held v. Montana.
During the trial, she testified about how intensifying floods, wildfires, and droughts have harmed her family’s cattle ranch.
“I got emotional on the stand, talking about my ranch and the changes I’ve seen and … knowing that my state is taking actions that impact my family and me and my community,” she says.
In the verdict, the judge said that the state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects was unconstitutional.
The state has said they will appeal. But regardless of the final outcome, it marks an important victory for young activists working to hold governments accountable for contributing to the climate crisis.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media