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With purpose: Maddie Hinkle wants to help the environment

Maddie Hinkle is in law school to be an advocate for Mother Nature.

“I cannot see myself doing anything other than environmental law work,” said Hinkle, who is in her final year at the West Virginia University College of Law

WVU Law student Madison Hinkle coming out of a cave

Hinkle wants to use her law degree to help preserve public lands, protect clean water resources and promote clean energy. 

"My dream would be to have the opportunity to do this type of work here in West Virginia after graduation, fighting on behalf of the state that gave me the love of the environment I have today,” she said.

Hinkle is a student attorney in the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, where she is applying her legal skills to real environmental law projects in the Mountain State. The Clinic provides legal services to local governments, landowners and non-profit organizations in West Virginia. Its mission focuses on land conservation, public planning and water-related issues.

WVU Law student Madison Hinkle climbing a cliff face

Students participating in the LUSD Law Clinic actively support West Virginia residents by helping create plans for communities that support their growth and development. They attend public meetings, conduct research and contribute writing and negotiation efforts to land and water conservation initiatives throughout the state.

“My favorite part of working in the LUSD Law Clinic has been getting to meet and work with people from around the state,” Hinkle said. “The Clinic gives students a fantastic opportunity to work with clients on a really personal level, and I am invested in our clients’ successes and the successes of their communities.”

On Law School Hill, Hinkle leads the Environmental Law Society student organization. The group advocates for environmental topics as it conducts community service projects and recycling initiatives on and off campus. It also prepares its members for careers in environmental law by hosting guest speakers and connecting students with summer internships.

Members of Environmental Law Society are diverse in their interests within the field of environmental law, but they come together through programming and service to further their common goal of protecting nature. Current members passions include water rights, trees, pollinators, climate change, preservation, among many other topics.

A native of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Hinkle’s interest in environmental law began early in her life growing up surrounded by the Mountain State’s natural beauty. 

“I was born and raised in West Virginia, and I view the natural resources of our region as our heritage,” she said. “I see the Environmental Law Society as a way to do my part to help fight on behalf of protecting that.”

Hinkle has already helped protect West Virginia’s natural resources while gaining real-world experience when she worked as a Federal Policy and Legislation Clerk for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The non-profit organization protects, manages and advocates for the Georgia-to-Maine national scenic trail.

She spent her time there in summer 2021 working on a proposed revision of a section of the Clean Water Act and researching federal funding opportunities for projects that support the Appalachian Trail and Trail Communities.

In summer 2020, Hinkle interned with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center and worked on projects related to the Federal Black Lung Benefits Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

WVU Law student Madison Hinkle exploring a canyon

As a law student, Hinkle is conducting research on energy and environmental issues, such as pipeline construction and local preemption of oil and gas drilling, as a research assistant for law professor and land use attorney Jesse Richardson.

She is also a research assistant for Professor James Van Nostrand as he works on his upcoming book, “The Coal Trap: How West Virginia was Left Behind in the Clean Energy Revolution” (Cambridge University Press, 2022). Van Nostrand is the director of WVU Law’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development

Additionally, Hinkle is Executive Editor for Volume 124 of the West Virginia Law Review , in which she has published articles on environmental topics. Her note on nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and how to mitigate the pollution problems will appear in the upcoming fall issue, and her article on coal company bankruptcies and the impacts on Appalachia will appear in the winter issue.

Hinkle has received the Cabot Scholarship and James H. Davis Scholarship from the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, and the Arch Coal, Inc. Law Scholarship to help fund her legal education.

Meet Madison Hinkle

WVU Law student Madison Hinkle

Hinkle holds a B.S. in Biology and minors in Business Administration and Psychology from WVU. She is 2021-22 secretary of the Energy Law Association student group, and she serves as a student representative on the Faculty Sustainability Subcommittee. She is also president of the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest.



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