University of Michigan Law adjunct shares his passion for the Great Lakes


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Andy Buchsbaum has always been passionate about nature – and for 15 years has shared that passion by teaching courses in environmental and Great Lakes law and policy as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

“Teaching U-M Law students is a real pleasure; I look forward to it every year,” says Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s regional Great Lakes office in Ann Arbor. “ I think I learn more from them than they do from me – they bring fresh perspectives, innovative approaches, and terrific energy to problems that have plagued the Great Lakes for decades. I’m continually impressed by
their intellect and it makes me feel confident that the Great Lakes will be in good hands in the future.”

Buchsbaum – who also serves as Interim Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund – oversees NWF projects such as Great Lakes restoration, prevention of the introduction of aquatic invasive species, Great Lakes water management reform, protection of the Great Lakes from global warming, protection of Lake Superior from sulfide mining, and environmental education.

“We have a great team that works to protect the greatest freshwater resource in the world and to make sure that future generations – our children—become the conservation stewards that the lakes need,” he says. “The work we do together is vitally important to the 40 million people who rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, jobs, recreation, and our way of life. To be able to contribute like that is incredibly rewarding.”

Buchsbaum also co-chairs the 110-member Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition, the primary non-governmental coalition championing Great Lakes restoration that he co-founded 10 years ago. He has testified on Great Lakes issues before state, regional and national government bodies; served as a designated conservation representative on the Council of Great Lakes Governor’s Advisory Group on the Great Lakes Charter Annex 2001, and was a lead negotiator in securing passage of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact.

“Like so many people, I grew up on swimming in the Great Lakes, loading up the family station wagon and going camping on the Michigan dunes. Later my wife and I spent our own family vacations on the lakes, at spectacular places like Sleeping Bear dunes and Pictured Rocks. Now that’s where my kids go for their own vacations,” he says. “As important as the lakes are for sustaining wildlife or drawing drinking water or driving the region’s economic engine, they are greater than that—they are places where millions of people make the family memories they carry for a lifetime. They are the foundation of our quality of life, part of our personal identities. I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to help protect these places that mean so much to so many.”

Buchsbaum previously worked as program director for the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan and as the senior/coordinating attorney for the Midwest office of the National Environmental Law Center.
Also a member of the Board of Directors for the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust, Buchsbaum developed his love of nature in his childhood in Oak Park, Ill., outside Chicago. “I spent my youth camping, hiking, and just running around outside all the time,” he says.

After earning his undergrad degree in government, magna cum laude, from Harvard College, he received his law degree from the University of California Boalt Hall School of Law, and his master of laws, advocacy, from Georgetown University Law Center.

“I wanted to make a difference, and I thought being a lawyer would give me the tools to be effective,” he says. “I never really had a deep desire to practice law, although I did so for NELC for a number of years. I think law school helps to make you a more effective advocate, and for me, that turned out to be true.”

Buchsbaum and his wife, Cathy Fleischer, a professor of English at Eastern Michigan University, live in Ann Arbor. Their son, Jesse, is an undergrad, and Seth is in law school.

In his leisure time, Buchsbaum enjoys kayaking, bicycling, swimming, running, and sports of all kinds; and has also been active with Ann Arbor nature centers and local river issues.