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James M. McElfish, Jr.

James M. McElfish, Jr.
Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
(202) 939-3840

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 Policy 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


  • J.D., Yale Law School, 1979
  • B.A., Dickinson College, 1976

Selected Publications

James M. McElfish & Lyle M. Varnell, Designing Environmental Indicators for Use in Public Decisions, 31 Colum. J. Envtl. L. 45 (2006).

James M. McElfish, Linda K. Breggin, John Pendergrass & Susan Bass, Inventing Nonpoint Controls: Methods, Metrics, and Results, 17 Vill. Envtl. L.J. 87 (2006).

James M. McElfish, Nature-Friendly Ordinances (Envtl. L. Inst. 2004).

James M. McElfish, Taxation Effects on Land Development and Conservation, 23 Temp. Envtl. L. & Tech. J. 139 (2004).

James M. McElfish, Chesapeake 2000 Tax Policy Study (Envtl. L. Inst. 2003).

James M. McElfish, The Regulations Implementing NEPA, in Mark Squillace & Karin P. Sheldon, The NEPA Litigation Guide (American Bar Ass’n 1999).

James M. McElfish, State Environmental Law and Programs, in Sheldon M. Novick et al., The Law of Environmental Protection (Clark Boardman Callaghan, updated annually).

James M. McElfish, Susan Bass, Tobie Bernstein & Elizabeth Sheldon, Hard Rock Mining: State Approaches to Environmental Protection (Envtl. L. Inst. 1996).