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Attorney Marc Chytilo a Staunch Defender of Environment

The lifelong advocate has had a big impact on the community and local policy

Expecting to meet a high-powered attorney, I had to laugh when Marc Chytilo showed up complaining of a sore thumb — the result of hunting pesky gophers in his garden. Good-natured and humble, he spoke passionately about his lifelong commitment to the environment.

Chytilo was raised in a Northern Virginia community that was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, who consistently designed around the natural landscape of an area. In school, Chytilo belonged to the recycling club — decades before anyone in city planning thought to offer blue bins. He says early exposure to such consciousness and spending much time in nature gave him a deep respect for the delicate balance of the environment.

Chytilo pursued a bachelor’s degree in forest biology from State University of New York, but he quickly realized he could make far more of an impact with a law degree. He attended the Colorado School of Law in Boulder, which he says had a strong environmental purpose. Several of his law professors were involved in efforts around Colorado’s Native American population, a cause that Chytilo joined.

“There is a strong connection between natural resources and the Native American population,” he said.

After school, Chytilo was offered a job in Santa Barbara with the Environmental Defense Center, a nonprofit corporation with a mission to advance environmental protection and whose program areas include protecting coast and ocean resources, open spaces and wildlife, and human and environmental health. During the next 12 years, he helped foster the growth of the EDC from two to 18 employees, and he eventually worked as senior counsel, doing advocacy on local, state and federal air-quality issues, land use and habitat preservation. He said he considers that an invigorating period of his career.

Chytilo left the EDC to open his own firm in 1999. Acknowledging the flexibility and control over his calendar, Chytilo says he does like being the boss. Now, he is able to take on cases of interest — most of which happen in the Central Coast or Northern California. He also says he doesn’t miss having to spend countless hours in meetings — a hallmark of company life.

When asked what people should know about the Clean Air Act, Chytilo said, “It’s the most powerful public air statute. We can go weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without air.” He also noted the importance of seeing the connection between air quality, transportation and land-use patterns.

Chytilo says he enjoys having a positive effect on the Santa Barbara community. Through his work, he’s actively making a difference in protecting open spaces and improving health — no small feat. The public takes notice of policies, and he says he feels support for the advocacy he does on behalf of the community.

“Even my opponents recognize and respect the importance of our natural resources,” he said.

In addition to practicing law, Chytilo has supported numerous environmental organizations over the years, including the Santa Barbara County Action Network and the Santa Barbara Council on Research and Education, and as a board member of the Surfrider Foundation for six years and as a founding director of the Santa Barbara Earth Day Coalition.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work.

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