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Sandra S. Nichols

Sandra S. Nichols
(202) 939-3828

Sandra Nichols develops policy and legislation and supports implementation of U.S. and foreign environmental and sustainable development legal structures. Working across a range of sectors, she focuses on developing strategies that are equitable and enduring because they are developed with the participation and in consideration of the interests of affected communities. Currently, she is researching the role of natural resources governance in post-conflict peacebuilding. She is putting this approach to practice through legal and policy development and community training in the forest sector in post-conflict Liberia. Nichols is developing policy and legal tools for sustainable, transparent, and equitable natural resources management in the Grenadine Islands. She continues her work on state policy for overcoming obstacles to redevelopment of petroleum brownfields and is actively engaged in the development of several training and stakeholder engagement workshops.

Nichols has been an adjunct professor at Troy University since 2006, where she has taught Environmental Law, Regulation, and Policy and Environmental Ethics. Prior to joining ELI, Nichols represented citizens’ groups on environmental issues, including national forests, water, endangered species, pollution, resource extraction, environmental justice, and land use with WildLaw in Montgomery, Alabama. She served as the legal advisor to Montgomery Tree Committee, was a member of the Alabama Open Records Reform Task Force, and testified to a congressional committee on the importance of the National Environmental Policy Act. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire, she assisted the town of Bouna sanitation department in management of municipal hygiene and sanitation projects from 1998-2000.


  • Community Resource Rights: governance for realizing benefit-sharing and transparency, equitable, and participatory management; community responses to pollution
  • Post-Conflict Natural Resources Governance: strengthening peacebuilding through environmental and natural resources legal development and implementation
  • Small Island States: development of Caribbean terrestrial and marine environmental law and policy
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Capacity-Building: development, presentation, institutionalization of judicial education programs in developing countries; designing and presenting training programs for communities and government officials
  • State Environmental Programs: policies and legal tools for improved implementation of State Brownfields, Underground Storage Tank, TMDL, Wetlands, and Climate programs; facilitating improved collaboration between stakeholders and each level of governance


  • J.D. University of Virginia, 2003
  • B.A. in Earth and Environmental Science, 1997

Selected Publications

Carl Bruch, William Carroll Muffet, and Sandra S. Nichols (eds.), Governance, Natural Resources, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (Earthscan 2011) (forthcoming).

Sandra S. Nichols, William Carroll Muffet, and Carl Bruch, “Lessons Learned”, Governance, Natural Resources, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (Earthscan 2011) (forthcoming).

Sandra S. Nichols and Mishkat Al Moumin, “The Role of Environmental Law in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding”, Governance, Natural Resources, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (Earthscan 2011) (forthcoming).

Sandra S. Nichols, Paivi Lujala, and Carl Bruch, When Peacebuilding Meets the Plan: Natural Resource Governance and Post-Conflict Recovery, Whitehead J. Diplomacy & Int'l Rel. (Feb. 2011).

Stephanie Altman, Charles Benjamin, Sandra S. Nichols, and Boubacar Thiam, Community Forestry: A Cornerstone of Peace and Security in West Africa, Natural Resource Governance and Human Security in Africa: Emerging Issues and Trends (Pax Africa) (Mar. 2010).

Sandra S. Nichols, H. Jordan Diamond, “Stimulating Community Health and Wealth: The Opportunities Presented by Petroleum Brownfields and Vacant Properties,” ECOS Green Report (Nov. 2009).

Sandra S. Nichols and James McElfish. Wetland Avoidance and Minimization in Action: Perspectives from Experience (Envtl. L. Inst. June 2009).

Sandra S. Nichols, and Carl Bruch, New Frameworks for Managing Dynamic Coasts: Legal and Policy Tools for Adapting Coastal Zone Management to Climate Change, Sea Grant L. & Pol’’y J. (June 2008).

Sandra S. Nichols, James McElfish, Jr., and Jessica Wilkinson, State Wetland Permitting Programs: Avoidance and Minimization Requirements (Envtl. L. Inst. Mar. 2008).

Sandra S. Nichols, “Urban Tree Conservation: A White Paper on Tree Conservation Approaches” (Montgomery Tree Comm. Sept. 2007).