Howard F. Wilkins III (“Chip”)


Mr. Wilkins joined the firm in 2005 and became a partner in 2010.  His practice focuses on land use and environmental law.  Mr. Wilkins handles all phases of the land use entitlement and permitting processes, including administrative approvals and litigation.  Mr. Wilkins provides a wide variety of expert environmental and land use advice to public and private clients, including State agencies, cities and counties, special districts, environmental consultants, project applicants, environmental organizations, and individuals. With over 20 years of litigation experience in state and federal courts, Mr. Wilkins has been involved in litigation resulting in numerous precedent setting decisions in both California and Federal Courts. He also regularly represents clients in front of state and local agencies, including the California Coastal Commission, the California Energy Commission, State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, as well as numerous counties and cities. Mr. Wilkins’s practice covers the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the State Planning and Zoning Law, the California Coastal Act, the Subdivision Map Act, the Williamson Act, the California Endangered Species Act, California Native Plant Protection Act, the Brown Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal Endangered Species Act, the federal Clean Water Act, the Tahoe Regional Compact, waste management, water law, administrative law, as well as initiative and referendum law.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Wilkins was an associate attorney in the complex litigation and litigation groups at Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard, where he represented public and private clients in state and federal court proceedings involving a broad range of matters, including inverse condemnation, eminent domain, contracts, products liability, unfair competition, and class actions.  He also volunteered at the Yolo County District Attorney’s office, handling hearings, bench trials and a jury trial.  Before entering law school, he served in various positions in the political arena, including research director for a state political party, political consultant and campaign manager.

Mr. Wilkins is an advisor to the Executive Committee for California Lawyers Association Environmental Law Section, former executive committee member (2011-2016) and chair of the Section (2015-2016), and the co-chair of the 2013 Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite.   Mr. Wilkins currently serves as the Treasurer for the California Lawyers Foundation and served on the Board of Representatives for the California Lawyers Association from 2018 through 2021 and as Chair of Board from 2019-2020.

Mr. Wilkins has regularly teaches land use and environmental continuing education classes and seminars for organizations such as the State Bar of California, Law Seminars International, and Association of Environmental Professionals. He also regularly speaks at conferences and meetings, such as Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite.

Representative matters include:

  • Outside counsel to Marina Coast Water District for CEQA review of water and land use projects and in litigation defending challenge to proposed annexation. Wilkins also currently represents the District in challenges relating to a large desalination plant.
  • Outside counsel to Imperial County and the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District for CEQA review of energy and land use projects and in litigation defending challenges to project approvals.
  • Outside counsel to Yuba County Water Agency regarding numerous CEQA matters and in defense of federal Endangered Species Act cases.  The current case involves a challenge to several Biological Opinions regarding Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon (“spring Chinook”), Central Valley steelhead (“steelhead”), and southern Distinct Population Segment of North American green sturgeon (“green sturgeon”) on the Yuba River.  In prior cases, the plaintiffs alleged separate Section 9 “take” violations against the Agency.
  • Representing Homewood Village Resorts LLC, JMA Ventures LLC, Squaw Valley Resort LCC, Mountainside Partners LLC, Kila Lodge LLC, Kingsbarn Capital & Development, MJD Capital Partners, and BHR TRS Tahoe East LLC in separate matters navigating CEQA, the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, and land use entitlement processes to obtain permits from Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) as well as litigation in federal and California courts.
  • Represented Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in defense of challenge to its adoption of Regional Plan in the United States Court for the Eastern District of California and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Represented Treasure Island Community Development, LLC and San Francisco Waterfront Partners II, LLC in separate matters navigating CEQA, and land use entitlement processes to obtain permits from the City and County of San Francisco and the State Lands Commission as well as litigation in California superior and appellate courts.
  • Represented County of Contra Costa in defense of two challenges to its CUPA Hazardous Waste Generator program fees and refund claims.  Successfully settled the matter after filing demurrer on behalf of County.   The case was settled on favorable terms for the County, and the fees remained valid.
  • Represented large retailer in successfully navigating CEQA and local land use entitlement processes to obtain a conditional use permit for home improvement store.  Despite vocal opposition during the permitting process, the project did not draw any litigation.  The entitlements sought included a tentative parcel map, design review, demolition permit, grading permit, building permits, encroachment permit from Caltrans, Asbestos Dust Mitigation Plan, approval for a piped canal, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification, and Nationwide 404 Permit.
  • Represented California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) in defense of petition for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief claims relating to whether it was exempt from annual water-related assessments.  The case was settled on favorable terms for DFG as DFG was not required to pay any past or future assessments and incurred no financial obligations to the plaintiffs.
  • Represented clients in administrative hearings, including the California Energy Commission, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, and State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Represented start-up companies in connection with proposals to site and obtain entitlements for proposed anaerobic digester facilities that transform organic waste into biogas fuel (hydrogen, methane), as well as biofuel, solar, and other clean energy projects.  Assisting clients in consultations with stakeholders and advising on environmental review process. Assisted clients in successfully obtaining millions in grant funding.

Published Decisions:

  • Marina Coast Water District County of Monterey, __ Cal,App. __, 2023 WL 6459328 (2023) (counsel for Marina Coast Water District; CEQA case).
  • League to Save Lake Tahoe Mountain etc. v. County of Placer (2022) 75 Cal.App.5th 63 (May 18, 2022) (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; CEQA case).
  • Sierra Watch v. Placer County (2021) 69 Cal.App.5th 1 (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; Ralph M. Brown Act case).
  • Friends of the River v. National Marine Fisheries Service (counsel for Intervenor-Defendant Yuba County Water Agency; Federal Endangered Species Act case)
    • 786 Fed.Appx. 666 (9th Cir. 2019) and
    • 293 F.Supp.3d 1151 (E.D. Cal. 2018).
  • Friends of the River v. National Marine Fisheries Service (E.D. Cal., July 18, 2017, No. 216CV00818JAMEFB) 2017 WL 3034700 (counsel for Yuba County Water Agency; Federal Endangered Species Act case).
  • Sierra Club v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (counsel for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency; Tahoe Regional Planning Compact case)
    • 840 F.3d 1106 (9th Cir. 2016)
    • 2014 WL 1366253 (E.D. Cal., Apr. 7, 2014) and
    • 2013 WL 3070632 (E.D. Cal. June 17, 2013).
  • Defend Our Waterfront v. California State Lands Commission (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 570 (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; CEQA case).
  • Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 1036 (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; CEQA case).
  • Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment v. County of Placer (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 25 (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; CEQA case).
  • Sierra Club v. Tahoe Reg’l Planning Agency,916 F.Supp.2d 1098 (E.D. Cal. 2013) (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; Tahoe Regional Planning Compact and CEQA case).
  • Citizens for Open Government/ Lodi First v. City of Lodi(2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 296 (counsel for Real Parties in Interest; CEQA case).
  • Yuba River Citizens League v. Nat’l Marine Fisheries Serv. (counsel for Yuba County Water Agency; Federal Endangered Species Act case)
    • 851 F. Supp. 2d 1246 (E.D. Cal. 2012);
    • 629 F. Supp. 2d 1123 (E.D. Cal. 2009); and
    • 257 F.R.D. 607 (E.D. Cal. 2009).


  • J.D., University of California, Davis, 1999
  • B.S., Political Science, Santa Clara University, 1995

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of California
    • Member (1999-present)
    • Environmental Law Section Chair (2015-2016) and Executive Committee Member (2010-2016); Advisor (2016-2017)
  • California Lawyers Association
    • Board of Representatives, Chair (2019-2020), Vice Chair (2018-2019), and member (2018-2021)
    • Environmental Law Section Executive Committee Advisor (2018-present) and Representative to CAL Board of Representatives (2018-2021)
    • Environmental Law Section member (2005-present)
  • Admitted to all California State Courts
  • U.S. District Courts, Northern, Eastern, Central and Southern Districts of California
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Sacramento County Bar Association
    • Environmental Law Section member
    • Executive Committee (2010-2015), Chair (2014-2015)
    • Selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers® magazine (2018-present)

Community Involvement

  • Master of the Bench, Schwartz/Levi Inn of Court
  • Board Member, Harry S. Truman Club