Elisabeth L. Esposito

Elisabeth L. Esposito



Natural resources attorney with expertise in water resources, NEPA/CEQA and forestry issues. Former attorney with U.S. Department of Agriculture advising on forestry and federal land management matters. 

Combining a background working with and for government agencies, Liz Esposito leverages her diverse, hands-on natural resources experience to provide strategic counsel and advocacy on a range of natural resource matters.

On behalf of private and public clients, Liz assists in the acquisition, development, maintenance and protection of water rights and resources. When it comes to the far-reaching scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Liz manages the environmental analysis process for large natural resources projects, has a detailed eye for evaluating the legal adequacy of analyses and develops tailored strategies for navigating environmental permitting processes. Liz also regularly represents clients in complex natural resources litigation, including at the appellate level.

Liz previously worked as a NEPA planner for the U.S. Forest Service and as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the General Counsel, advising the U.S. Forest Service on natural resources and land management issues. Liz uses her background to assist clients engaged in activities on national forests and public lands, private forest landowners and others engaged in forest management in California and across the nation.


Representative Matters

Public Lands & Forest Management

  • Represents Blue Forest Conservation, a mission driven firm that brings private capital to public forests under an innovative forest resilience bond concept which harnesses financial innovation and builds diverse partnerships to design solutions to systemic watershed health and ecosystem resilience challenges. The restoration projects will protect tens of thousands of acres of National Forest System lands and include tree thinning, meadow restoration, prescribed burning and invasive species management to reduce severe fire risk and protect water resources. Brownstein provides counsel on U.S. Forest Service regulations and partnership models, state and federal environmental laws and water law.

  • Advises non-profit organizations, public agencies, and neighboring landowners on partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration and fuels reduction projects and protect neighboring lands and communities from catastrophic wildfire.

  • Assists clients in engaging in administrative processes, negotiating agreements and obtaining permits, easements, and project approvals from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service.

  • Represented a diverse coalition of wildfire stakeholders in a case before the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana advocating for the continued availability of every tool in the toolbox to protect human lives, private property, public lands and natural resources from wildfires. The plaintiff sought to enjoin the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) use of aerial fire retardants during firefighting activities nationwide until the USFS applied for a Clean Water Act permit for discharge of the retardant. Consistent with responsive pleadings filed by the USFS and a broad coalition of communities and organizations represented by Brownstein, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction, ruling that USFS may continue to deploy fire retardant as a tool to fight wildfires during the permit process. Forest Serv. Emps. for Env't Ethics v. United States Forest Serv., No. CV 22-168-M-DLC, 2023 WL 3687454 (D. Mont. May 26, 2023).

  • Prior to rejoining Brownstein, served as lead in-house counsel to the U.S. Forest Service in defending lawsuits alleging violations of environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Forest Management Act (NFMA), leading to decisive victories in trial courts an on appeal. E.g., Cent. Sierra Env't Res. Ctr. v. Stanislaus Nat'l Forest, 304 F. Supp. 3d 916 (E.D. Cal. 2018); motion for summary judgment granted in Cent. Sierra Env't Res. Ctr. v. Stanislaus Nat'l Forest, No. 117CV00441LJOSAB, 2019 WL 3564155 (E.D. Cal. 2019), aff'd, 30 F.4th 929 (9th Cir. 2022).

Water Rights & Supply

  • Special water counsel for private equity firm One Rock Capital in connection with the completion of due diligence in support of the agreements to acquire Nestle Waters North America, the world’s largest bottled water company for over $4 billion. Brownstein water counsel led due diligence efforts on water assets, water rights, water supplies and offered industry and supply risk assessments for Nestlé Waters North America’s U.S. business, including regional spring water brands, production facilities and infrastructure related to the water business.

  • Counsel to large California private landowner and nut grower. Representing client in related cases including a comprehensive groundwater adjudication and an action against a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) resulting from the GSA’s decision to grant a zero allocation of groundwater to certain overlying landowners and other SGMA implementation decisions.

  • Member of the Brownstein team that represented the Cities of Burbank and Glendale in four consolidated trial court proceedings challenging regulatory approvals issued by the Regional and State Water Boards to the four publicly owned treatment facilities that discharge highly treated wastewater to the Los Angeles River. On appeal, prevailed on all three issues on appeal in a major case interpreting California’s reasonable use doctrine (Article X, section 2 of the California Constitution), which governs all uses of water resources in California. Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Board (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 230.


  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) counsel to an organization engaged in a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to expedite the preparation of NEPA analyses for fuels reduction projects through the deployment of innovative technology.

  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and NEPA counsel to California water agencies that contract with federal agencies for water supplies and for the use of federal facilities operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

  • CEQA and land use counsel to company designing, manufacturing and operating an innovative autonomous delivery system that is transforming access to healthcare, consumer products, and food.

Insights & Publications



J.D., 2014, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Certificate of Specialization in Environmental Law

B.S., 2009, University of California at Berkeley, with distinction


  • California


Co-Chair, American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, Forest Resources Committee

Board of Directors, Heartwood Biomass

Community Involvement


Vice President and Fundraising Co-Chair, California Alumni Foresters

Mentor, Forestry and Natural Resources Career Mentorship Program

Tuolumne County Grand Jury (2020 - 2022)

2013-2014 Berkeley Law Co-Chair, California Water Law Symposium

Publishing Editor and Programs Director, Ecology Law Quarterly

Co-President, Berkeley Law, Environmental Law Society



Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America, 2024

Finalist, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, 2016

Semifinalist (2013) and Quarterfinalist (2014), National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

2013 and 2014 Winner, Ecology Law Quarterly Energy and Climate Change Legal Writing Award