Meet Our Team.

Laura S. Ziemer

Of Counsel

Office:    (602) 888-7011

Mobile:       (406) 599-2606


J.D. University of Michigan, cum laude (1991)

M.S. Resource Ecology, University of Michigan, with honors (1991)

B.A., B.S., with distinction and departmental honors, Indiana University (1986)

Awards and Recognitions



Laura is a nationally-recognized Western water law and policy attorney, with experience as an environmental lawyer spanning more than three decades. Her areas of practice beyond water law include administrative law and permitting, NEPA compliance and review, non-governmental organization program development, tribal reserved water rights, and a broad range of public and private land management and restoration experience.  Prior to joining Culp & Kelly, LLP, Laura established Trout Unlimited’s (TU’s) Montana Water Project in 1998, beginning TU’s flow restoration efforts, and subsequently helping to grow TU’s water work to nine states (MT, CO, WY, ID, UT, NM, OR, WA, and CA), and growing its water staff from two to 122. TU’s Western Water and Habitat Program became TU’s largest conservation initiative during her tenure, which works to restore and maintain streamflows and watersheds for healthy coldwater fisheries.

In Montana, Laura’s work had a broad scope encompassing on-the-ground restoration projects, changes to Montana’s water law, and the combination of both expressed in changed agency practice.  Her work included expansion of TU’s water leasing program, permanently protecting flows on the Bitterroot River, initiating a successful drought response plan on the Blackfoot River, shaping and helping to finalize tribal and U.S. Forest Service reserved rights through negotiated settlement, and obtaining numerous favorable rulings from the Montana Supreme Court, among them recognizing instream flow rights under the prior appropriation doctrine (Bean Lake III, Sept. 2002) and integrating ground and surface water management (TU v. DNRC, April 2006). In ten, successive state legislative sessions, Laura successfully worked to broaden Montana laws to protect and restore flows and watersheds including pioneering legislation fully integrating ground and surface water management in Montana.

Nationally, as TU’s Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor, she helped pass new federal legislation to promote watershed restoration, including:  new watershed restoration authorities in the 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills; in the 2014 Water Resources and Reform Development Act; in the 2020 amendments to the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART authority; and in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  In addition to working on federal agency implementation of the new statutory authorities, other work of national significance included preparing agency comments and litigation regarding the scope of agency rule-making on the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act defining “waters of the United States.”  

Before joining Trout Unlimited, Laura had been practicing public-interest environmental law as an attorney with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now Earthjustice) out of Seattle, Washington and later in Bozeman, Montana.  With the Legal Defense Fund, Laura litigated a variety of public lands issues, including changing timber management practices around northern spotted owl habitat and challenging fragmentation of grizzly bear habitat. Successful water litigation included challenging the dioxin discharges of pulp and paper industrial facilities and weighing in on water transfers that violated state law and served rapid development at the expense of fish and wildlife.  Also in Washington state, Laura successfully challenged the grant of groundwater pumping permits which harmed flows in nearby streams and rivers.

Laura’s international legal work has focused on the intersection between human rights violations and environmental degradation. Working during a decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka for the country’s only environmental non-governmental organization, she worked to preserve natural forests and public access for fuelwood in the face of an international effort to privatize the forests and export raw logs. Because a majority of the rural population depended on fuelwood to make their food, conservation and access to natural forests was just as vital to livelihoods as the press of civil war. Later, working Of Counsel to the Tibetan-Government-In-Exile in Northern India, Laura focused on the link between environmental and human rights on a project of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, spotlighting first-hand accounts of how environmental degradation deprived people of fundamental human rights to life, health and culture. These experiences helped cement Laura’s life-long commitment to equity, diversity, dignity, and inclusion as fundamental and inviolate.

Laura served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Barbara J. Rothstein of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.  She completed her graduate work in 1991 at the University of Michigan, graduating cum laude from the Law School while earning a Master’s Degree in Resource Ecology with honors from the School of Natural Resources.  

Laura enjoys an avocation of mountaineering as a complement to her legal work. She  was a Climbing Ranger for the National Park Service in the North Cascades and Denali National Parks, a member of the 1995 American Everest Expedition via the North Ridge, and staffed the remote, high-altitude clinic in the Khumbu region of Nepal for the Himalayan Rescue Association.  She considers teaching her two daughters to climb and ski her most rewarding mountain experience.