James M. Olson

Jim has been practicing law since 1972 in the specialized practice of Environmental, Land Use, Municipal, Real Estate, Toxic Tort, Hazardous Waste and Natural Resources Law. A graduate of Detroit College of Law, he also earned a postgraduate Master of Law Degree from the University of Michigan Law School in Public Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Law.

Jim has lectured at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Leadership Institute, and at numerous professional associations, universities, and other organizations in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. He has written and published several books, one on Michigan Environmental Law, and numerous articles on environmental and land use subjects.

Jim is a member of the American Bar Association and the Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. He is also licensed to practice law in Colorado.

E-mail: olson@envlaw.com




    • Michigan Environmental Law
      (Neahtawanta Press, 1981, 344 pp)
    • "The Michigan Environmental Protection Act:
      An Experiment That Works,"
      64 Michigan Bar Journal 181
  • "Attorney Fees and Costs Allowance According to the Michigan Environmental Protection Act,"
    8 Michigan Environmental Law Journal 1, p. 2

  • "Ecology, Burden of Proof and Ethics,"
    20 Environmental Law 891
    (Sept. 1990) 

  • “Environmental Consultant Contracts and Other Agreements,”
    Avoiding Environmental Liability in Michigan,
    (Nat. Business Institute, 2001)
  • “Creeping” (Solon Creek, Esq.)
    5 Mich Bar Journal 422
    • “Navigating the Great Lakes Compact: Water, Public Trust, and International Trade Agreements,”
      2006 Mich. State L. Rev 1103
    • “Finding the Gradient of Water Law,”
      St. Bar Michigan, Env’l Law Section 25
      (June 18, 2004)
    • “Great Lakes Water,”
      80-Dec. Mich B.J. 32
    • "Public Natural Resource Law: Toward a Public Lands Ethic," 56 Journal of Urban Law 739
      (1979, 250 pp)
    • Cross-Boarder Litigation: Environmental Rights in the Great Lakes Ecosystem
      (Carswell, 1986, 410 pp)
      (co-authored with P. Muldoon & D. Scriven)
    • "Public Trust Doctrine,"
      Michigan Environmental Law Deskbook, ICLE
      (co-authored with J. Noonan)
    • "The Public Trust Doctrine,"
      1975 Detroit College of Law Review 161
    • A Property Owner's Environmental Guidebook: Natural Resources and Environmental Issues in Residential and Small Business Real Estate Transactions
      (Grand Traverse Regional Environmental Institute, 1991)
      (co-authored with J. Noonan)
    • “Takings in Michigan: Private Property and Environmental Protection,”
      2 Mich Law & Policy Rev. 261
    • “Calming the Waters of the Private Property Rights Movement,”
      1995 Detroit College Law Review 35
    • "The Role of Fairness in Takings Law,"
      3 Urban Law 440
    • "Beyond Local Zoning: Regionalism and Environmental Duties,"
      1979 Detroit College Law Review 371
    • "Local Power of Referendum,"
      50 Journal of Urban Law 209



Admitted to Courts

  • All Michigan Courts, including Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and all trial courts
  • All Colorado Courts, including Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and all trial courts
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit


Professional Presentations and Other Instruction

He has given the following presentations and instruction:

  • Lecturer
    University of Michigan
    New Ground Conference
  • Lecturer
    Universidade Estadual Paulista Campus de Sao Jose Do Rio Preto, Brazil
    (March 1985)
  • Lecturer
    Presentation to Attorney General and Staff
    State of Sao Paulo, Brazil
    (March 1985)
  • Lecturer
    Canadian Administration of Justice Institute
    Environmental Law: Uncertainty and Risk
    (October 1988)
  • Lecturer
    Michigan Department of Natural Resources
    Natural Resources Leadership Institute
    (January, 1988)
  • Lecturer
    University of Michigan Law School
    Symposium on Lucas and Takings Law
    (January 1993)



Kroupa Environmental Lifetime Achievement Award, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council

Milliken Leadership Award, Michigan Land Use Institute

Champion of Justice Award, State Bar of Michigan

Michigan Environmental Council Special Recognition for Environmental and
Public Interest Advocacy

Michigan Lawyer of the Year, Michigan Lawyers’ Weekly


Reported Decisions

Jim has appeared as an attorney of record for one of the parties or an amicus in the following reported decisions:

  • Taxpayers and Citizens in the Public Interest v Department of State Highways
    70 Mich App 385; 245 NW2d 761 (1976)


  • People v Duhamel
    72 Mich App 77; 248 NW2d 670


  • Superior Public Rights v DNR
    80 Mich App 72; 263 NW2d 290
  • PBB Action Committee v DNR
    403 Mich 251; 268 NW2d 240
  • Environmental Action Council v Natural Resources Commission
    405 Mich 741; 275 NW2d 538
  • Citizens Ins. Company of America v Tunney
    91 Mich App 223; 283 NW2d 700
  • Cady v Dick Loehr's Inc.
    100 Mich App 543; 299 NW2d 69
  • UAW v Bear Archery
    617 F2d 157


  • PBB Action Committee v DNR
    155 Mich App 356; 320 NW2d 376
  • People v Hubbard
    115 Mich App 73; 320 NW2d 294
  • Committee for Sensible Land Use v Garfield Township
    124 Mich App 559; 335 NW2d 216
  • Kalkaska v Shell Oil
    157 Mich App 227; 403 NW2d 474
  • Upjohn v New Hampshire Insurance
    438 Mich 197; 476 NW2d 392
  • Friends of the Crystal River v USEPA
    794 FSupp 674
    (WD Mich, 1992)
  • Friends of the Crystal River v USEPA
    35 F3d 1073
    (CA 6, 1994)
  • Miller Brothers v DNR
    203 Mich App 674; 513 NW2d 217
  • Traverse City Light & Power v Home Insurance Co.
    209 Mich App 112; 530 NW2d 150
  • K & K Const, Inc v DNR
    456 Mich 570; 575 NW2d 531
  • Nemeth v Abonmarche Development Co
    475 Mich 16; 576 NW2d 641
    (April 21, 1998)
  • Burt Township v DNR
    459 Mich 659; 593 NW2d 534
  • Township of Bingham v RLTD Railroad Corp.
    463 Mich 634; 624 NW2d 725
  • National Wildlife Federation v Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co.
    417 Mich 608; 684 NW2d 800
  • Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestle Waters North American Inc.
    2005 WL 3193717; ____Mich App ____ 
  • Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestlé Waters North America Inc.
    479 Mich 280; 737 NW2d 447
  • Anglers of the AuSable v Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,
    283 Mich App 115; 770 NW2d 359
  • Whitman v Galien Township
    ___ Mich App___; ____ NW2d ____; 2010 WL 2330378



Professional Associations

  • Michigan Bar Association (MBA)
    • MBA Environmental Law Section
    • MBA Real Property Section
    • MBA Administrative Law Section
  • Fellow, Michigan State Bar Foundation 
  • Colorado Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Acting Chair, Flow for Water Coalition (FLOW)
  • (Non Profit Great Lakes Water Rights Protection Coalition)






Kate Redman Discusses Crowd-Funding Rules in TC's Record-Eagle

“Investment crowdfunding has been leading the industry globally, but we should see a really startling growth in the U.S. once these new rules are effective,” said Kate Redman, attorney with Olson, Bzdok & Howard PC in Traverse City. Redman will offer training “labs” starting in May for businesses and nonprofits interested in investment crowdfunding. Contact her at kate@envlaw.com for more information.

Traverse City Record-Eagle (01-24-16) 

The Traverse City law firms, Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C. and Sondee, Racine & Doren, PLC, are pleased to announce our formal affiliation as of January 1, 2016. Our firms will be working together closely to represent clients as a team, and provide our clients with a greater variety and depth of legal services.

Each firm will retain its own identity, but Sondee, Racine & Doren will be “of counsel” to Olson Bzdok & Howard. This means that all of our attorneys will have a close, continuous and regular professional relationship and that we all will work together for you.

Each firm will be maintaining its own office and staff, and all attorney contact information will remain the same.


Public Trust Framework Recommended for Great Lakes

The International Joint Commission (IJC) of the United States & Canada has issued a report recommending the application of a bi-national Public Trust framework to help fill regulatory gaps and guide decision-making that will ensure the protection of the long-term ecological integrity, economic stability, and the many public and private uses of the Great Lakes.

Firm founder Jim Olson has advocated for the active implementation of Public Trust principles in Great Lakes decision-making for decades, so this recommendation is both a welcome development, and a tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations Jim!

Full Report (pdf): Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes 

Kate Redman is one of TC's 40 under 40!

Kate Redman, Community Enterprise Attorney and Partner at Olson, Bzdok & Howard, has been selected as one of Traverse City's Most Influential Professionals under 40 for 2015. This is the second year in a row Kate has been selected by the TC Business News as part of TC's "40 under 40." Congrats Kate!

Sept. 1, 2015 

Partnership Announcement

Olson, Bzdok & Howard is pleased to announce that Ross A. Hammersley and Kate E. Redman became shareholders with the firm. Please take a look at their attorney profiles to learn more about these young legal trailblazers.

March 20, 2015