Supporters Like You

A bowhead whale and calf surface in the Arctic Ocean
(AMELIA BROWER / NOAA)

Supporters like you are joining with Earthjustice to defend our wild places, our communities and our future.

They are people who have taken action through a gift in a will or trust or by beneficiary designation to make defending the environment a part of their enduring legacy.

Meet some of them here.

Brenda Ray

“I started supporting Earthjustice when I saw the success they were having in the courts, and how they partnered with and represented other organizations. I knew their work was critical and would be needed far into the future.”

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In considering the ways in which I wanted to support Earthjustice, I pondered the question of abundance and what would that look like to me. I’m not wealthy, but I’m single and have been saving money for a while. I support Earthjustice and other organizations I like with smaller gifts — $25, $50, $100 — but generally not more than that. But I was inspired to ask: “What would it be like if I could make a much larger gift to an organization – like Earthjustice — that I really believed in?” I thought about it and reveled in the positive feelings that idea gave me.

I started thinking about what I had saved and where I might like it to go after my lifetime. I knew I wanted to leave some to family members and a few friends, but I also recalled the joy I felt when I thought about making a really significant gift to Earthjustice.

It was perfect timing, because I learned about the Sandler Foundation Bequest Challenge Match. The Sandler Foundation will match a percentage of my future gift with an immediate gift today. By naming Earthjustice as a beneficiary of my brokerage account, I was able to generate an immediate matching gift that was significantly larger than the gifts I was previously able to give. It was just what I had imagined I’d be able to do someday, but I also get to see my gift in action now.

I encourage all Earthjustice supporters to make or update their plans and ask each of you to participate in the Sandler Foundation Bequest Challenge Match by making a future gift to benefit Earthjustice. I made my gift in such a simple way — by naming Earthjustice a beneficiary of my brokerage account. But you can also make a gift in your will or trust, or name Earthjustice a beneficiary of your financial accounts — bank, brokerage, savings, life insurance, or retirement accounts.

My dream of abundance and being able to contribute more became a reality. And I’m grateful to the Sandler Foundation – it’s such a beautiful gift on their part, to make my own gift possible.

I realized that the work Earthjustice is doing is just too big to think small. Please think bigger with me!

I encourage all Earthjustice supporters to make or update their plans and ask each of you to participate in the Sandler Foundation Bequest Challenge Match by making a future gift to benefit Earthjustice.

Tania Banak

Tania Banak has supported Earthjustice’s work since the 1970s, when the organization was known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Both a donor and volunteer, she’s played an active role in advocating for healthy communities and lobbied for the Clean Air Act in 1988. She shares, “It’s been quite a journey! Some years ago, I received a certificate for being a donor to Earthjustice for 25 years, and I didn’t even realize it had been that long.”

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Her passion to protect the environment has been demonstrated on both a national and local level. Working at the University of Illinois, she advocated tirelessly to help implement a university-wide recycling program, which still exists today. “There’s definitely an activist bone in my body,” Tania admits. “These smaller victories add up and make a difference and can change the future.”

Tania understands the long-term nature of defending the environment in court, and she knows a legacy gift can have an enduring impact on Earthjustice’s promise to combat climate change, protect precious wildlife, and secure a pollution-free future for all. In 2008, she became a member of the Evergreen Council by naming Earthjustice a beneficiary of her retirement plan. “They never give up and never back down. Supporting this work is crucial for me — both today and after I’m gone — because this is what it will take to save the environment and make a difference.” Creating her legacy gift was an intimate and important decision. “I want to ensure that a portion of my estate will be used to promote a thriving planet for generations to come and designating Earthjustice as a beneficiary of my IRA was a way to make a substantial impact.”

From her years of advocacy, Tania learned that many environmental policy battles require decades of effort. Since the earliest days of her involvement with Earthjustice, the organization has been working to protect the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. With its towering stands of old-growth spruce and hemlock trees, it is the country’s largest national forest and contains approximately 29% of the remaining unlogged coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. The Tongass is also the traditional territory of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. “Over the decades, I’ve written reams of letters to my legislators about this forest, and we are still entangled in heated disputes over its fate. This is a fight we need to keep on fighting.” Tania was thrilled to learn that this July, in a huge victory for the climate, the Biden administration ordered the end of large-scale old-growth logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s litigation on the Dakota Access Pipeline is another area of particular interest to Tania. “In addition to the environmental damage, it hurts me deeply to think about how this impacts the Indigenous communities whose land was taken for these projects. I support their fight for justice and all they are doing to protect the sanctity of their land and water. My activism in my younger days was all about environmental protection, but over the years, I’ve learned more about the intersection of the environment and social injustice.”

Tania believes vivid content that resonates with diverse audiences has the power to bring about change in this area. “I learn so much from the information Earthjustice shares with me, but I worry about those who don’t have access to these messages. I would love to see additional public-facing campaigns and advertising that capture the imagination of the mainstream and help everyone understand the grave threats the pipeline poses to clean water, important fisheries, and the health of Indigenous people.”

Tania celebrated her 34th anniversary as an Earthjustice donor this year. Everyone at the organization is sincerely grateful for her decades of advocacy and her long-standing commitment to defending the environment. She observes, “You get such a meaningful return on your investment when you include a gift to Earthjustice in your estate plans because the work they do impacts so many lives.”

Helen and Raj Desai

Helen and Raj Desai are long-time supporters of Earthjustice, and their history of environmental activism runs deep. After meeting at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) in the 1950s, they have built a full life, with many business successes, a beautiful family, dedication to the arts, and a strong environmental legacy.

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As a community organizer, Helen has advocated locally and beyond for better environmental policies and programs. “I began to understand environmental problems when I was a student at UCB. After I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, I had to become active. In 1970, our local YMCA held a series of weekly talks on pollution. The speakers were scientists and professors from UCB and Stanford. We neighbors were electrified; we had to do something immediately! We opened our garages once a month for neighbors to recycle. After three years, our Richmond Environmental Action became so popular that we had to start a weekly recycling center.”

The drive to improve their community has been a recurring theme in their lives. And they know that the most effective actions are taken as a community. “Coming together as a group and forming consensus is very important. In 1981, I participated in direct action at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. I was nervous about going to jail for the first time. But I was with hundreds of very committed women and found strength in being with them. We were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King and trained in non-violent resistance by wonderful teachers. I saw the impact non-violent resistance could have: One of the guards at the jail was so impressed that she later became an advocate for non-violent civil disobedience.” Helen also participated in non-violent actions in 1982 and 1983 and the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab.

As they have moved into their retirement years, Helen and Raj have expanded their philanthropic support. “In Hinduism, there are four life stages based on the concept of Dharma,” explains Raj, “student, householder, retired, and renunciate, each stage roughly 25 years. The student stage is the learning years. In the householder stage, we work to support our families and build our financial resources. With luck and hard work, I was able to build a successful engineering firm and had the luck and right timing to invest in real estate, which now funds our philanthropy. In the renunciate phase, we take time out to experience quietude, peace, and beauty. We contemplate and meditate; we walk in gardens, parks, and forests. We are letting go of our possessions and using our resources to support organizations like Earthjustice.” Helen adds, “Gandhi reminds us that we are not amassing wealth for ourselves — we are custodians of it and ultimately need to give it away.”

The Desai’s relationship with Earthjustice continues to grow. They provide generous annual support through qualified charitable distributions from their IRAs and, having included Earthjustice in their estate plans, are members of the Evergreen Council. “In my lifetime I experienced the power of grassroots,” says Helen, “and I saw that we need the lawyers too!” One of their granddaughters is a lawyer for the environment.

In 2020, Raj and Helen met with Earthjustice attorney Michelle Ghafar to learn more about Earthjustice’s current legal battles. While they were thrilled to hear about her work, Michelle was equally inspired by them. “They are the first supporters I’ve met. They are so thoughtful and committed, and it was meaningful for me to meet the people who make my work possible. All of us at Earthjustice are working against well-funded, well-resourced industries; knowing that we have the steadfast support that Helen and Raj provide makes me feel so excited and hopeful!” And the feeling was mutual.

Scott Borden

Scott Borden has supported Earthjustice since he first graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1978. In the beginning, his monthly checks were small — he was just out of college, after all — but his commitment to the organization was no less ardent than it is now, decades later.

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“It’s important that a strong organization of professionals like Earthjustice is there to defend the environment, the animals, and the ecosystems that can’t speak for themselves,” says Borden, who lives in San Diego. “There’s no organization that does that better than Earthjustice.”

Borden’s support has come a long way since those early post-college days. While he continues to maintain monthly donations, he also has made Earthjustice a major beneficiary of his estate and his Individual Retirement Account (IRA), as well as his donor-advised fund succession plan.

As a passionate environmentalist, as well as an avid cyclist and occasional hiker, the fourth-generation Californian hopes to ensure that Earthjustice can continue to protect things he cares about, even after he’s gone.

“Earthjustice’s stability and strength of leadership ensures that they are going to be there for the long haul,” he explains. “The organization is very smart and very strategic — they don’t just chase the latest hot environmental issue, they choose which cases to be involved in to have the greatest impact.”

Borden notes that it took no more than a few minutes to make Earthjustice the beneficiary of his IRA. The process was only slightly longer for his estate. “You don’t have to look any further than the current political situation to see how important it is to support Earthjustice,” says Borden.

Jeane Allen

“I have always been interested in the outdoors and conservation. In the early 1970s, I worked hard advocating for the Eastern Wilderness Area Act. The forests were coming back & recovering – not pristine, but still in good shape.”

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“Then in the mid to late 1970s, I helped protect the Irish Wilderness in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. We formed a committee, met with the Forest Service, and shared reports & photographs. This picture is of me in the Irish Wilderness, photographing the Eleven Point Scenic River.

When I heard about Earthjustice and its legal work to protect the environment, I started supporting them. While these days I can only write letters & make phone calls to my representatives, I know that the gift I’ve included for Earthjustice in my estate plan will help their attorneys save our wildlife and wildlands.”

Rosie Wigutoff

Rosie Wigutoff owes her passion for the environment to her parents. Her father worked as a foreign fisheries specialist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and her mother, a lawyer, was the first female city councilwoman of Ketchikan, Alaska.

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“They actively cultivated environmentalism in their children,” says Rosie. “Even the legal aspect of environmental protection is a family tradition that I keep up through my support of Earthjustice. Because my mother was a lawyer, I have a particular interest in the legal side of the work.” Her support of Earthjustice is driven by the realization that “if we don’t have good quality air and water, then we don’t have anything else.”

Over the years, Rosie has made many small contributions to Earthjustice, and she’s also signed petitions and written letters whenever asked. Her decision to leave a gift for Earthjustice in her will was made so long ago that she can’t even remember when the idea first occurred to her. “I love the partnership between Earthjustice and other environmental organizations. It creates tremendous leverage and it appeals to me to see groups working together to solve a problem.” Her decision to leave a gift has recently been reinforced by what she calls “the onslaught of corporate interests.” She adds, “I felt I wanted to do something very personal to preserve our environment in the face of that threat, and my bequest accomplishes that.”

Although she has a special interest in Central and South America because, as she puts it, “those areas need more help,” Rosie doesn’t feel the need to designate her bequest to any particular part of the world or issue. “I can’t give a lot of money now, but it gives me peace of mind to know that when my time comes, my money will go to an important cause,” she says. “I want Earthjustice to use the funds in a way that has the most impact at that particular time.”

“If we don’t have good quality air and water, then we don’t have anything else.”

—Rosie Wigutoff, on what drives her support of Earthjustice

Evergreen Council Member

David and Alexis Colker

“Many of our best family memories involve experiencing the magnificent wild places of our country. We are impressed with the dedication of Earthjustice to ensuring the preservation of these precious and often endangered ecosystems. We also believe it is critical to enforce and improve our environmental, safety, and consumer laws because these impact all of us, no matter where we live. By including Earthjustice in our estate plans, we feel we are contributing to the long-lived mission of a truly exceptional organization.”

David and Alexis included Earthjustice in their family trust. Learn more about how you can make a special gift through your will or trust.

Dr. Lester Goldstein

“Without a doubt, I think of Earthjustice as being the most effective environmental organization on the legal front. I feel like we should give back, and legacy gifts are a very easy way to give. I know of no organization where the money is as well spent for the environment as it is at Earthjustice.”

Dr. Goldstein has established charitable gift annuities that provide him with guaranteed income for life and tax benefits.

Susan and Fred Fisher

“From the time Fred co-founded Earthjustice, the organization and the people associated with it have been tightly woven into our lives. As attorneys, Fred and I understood what lawyers can do on behalf of the environment and I know our bequest gift will help to keep that going. Our decision to include Earthjustice in our estate plans was very personal, very comfortable and seemed as natural as including other friends and family.”

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“Creating laws is only the beginning of change; enforcing them is the other part, and that’s what Earthjustice does. I love the idea of giving a legacy to lawyers so that they can do what they need to do. By making a gift to Earthjustice, and supporting its unique position, our gift will go very far.”

“By making a gift to Earthjustice, and supporting its unique position, our gift will go very far.”

—Susan Fisher

Evergreen Council Member

Joanna Katz

“I am primarily a realistic painter, and I love plein air painting. I just got back from a wonderful week of painting at Asilomar (on the central CA coast), where again I have been refreshed by the peaceful and meditative state brought by observing and interpreting nature’s forms. But I find increasingly that the sky is hazy and yellowed with pollution, and a larger percent of foliage is struggling for life. I include these changes in my paintings with the hope those viewing the paintings will become more aware and active in fighting to limit greenhouse gases.”

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“My radio keeps me company as I eat meals at home. I am continually shocked by the tales of greed, corruption and short sightedness I hear on public and listener sponsored radio. Unless we make very big changes now, we will no longer have a livable world.

To more effectively fight for environmental justice and at the suggestion of my financial advisor, I have established a charitable annuity with Earthjustice. ‘Because the earth needs a good lawyer.'”

Edith Kraemer

“I have been an animal and nature lover for most of my life – I am especially concerned for the polar bears, African elephants, and every species of ape and monkey. Therefore, many animal organizations are listed in my estate plans. I believe in so many things Earthjustice does that I added Earthjustice to the list of charitable beneficiaries in my will. While I am not able to make many donations anymore, I know that after my lifetime a meaningful gift will be left for Earthjustice.”

Dr. Gregory Maravelas

“Earthjustice is an inspiration! Why did I make my legacy gift? Where to begin. Let’s stay with fundamentals: clean air, unpoisoned water, uncontaminated soil. The desire for a healthy planet and a healthy environment in which to live a healthy, joyous life.”

Ben McClinton

It’s probably no surprise that a nature-loving lawyer would become a staunch supporter of Earthjustice. But the path Ben McClinton has taken through life — the path that sparked his dedication to Earthjustice — is anything but usual.

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Only nine when he lost his parents, Ben was raised by his grandparents in northern Utah. “Many family gatherings included a trip up a canyon to picnic and hike,” he recalls. “I learned early on what treasures wild spaces are.” Later, most vacations were backpacking trips.

Ben’s commitment to wild places was cemented through two extensive, years’-long trips, one of which took him around the world. “I visited wildlife preserves in India and saw the degradation of the land through deforestation,” he says. “It was heartbreaking. That’s when I realized that when we protect nature, we do so not just for our country, but for the whole world.”

Ben’s real “aha” moment came later. “As a lawyer, I know how powerful effective legal advocacy can be — especially the kind Earthjustice provides against the Goliaths of government and acquisitive corporations.”

Passionate about Earthjustice’s work to prevent Utah’s Canyonlands National Park from becoming a highway for off-road vehicles, Ben praises Earthjustice’s approach of partnering with local groups — like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which he also supports. “The local group provides the knowledge of the community and its issues, and Earthjustice provides the legal and financial resources to effect change,” he explains.

Over the years, Ben and his wife have supported wilderness and environmental organizations, not just with activism, but with donations. As they began making provisions for what would happen when they pass away, they knew they wanted to leave most for protectors of the natural world. They decided to make a provision for Earthjustice.

“We believe in giving the children in our families many of the benefits of having money — things like education, health care and homes in good neighborhoods,” Ben explains. “But then they need to be on their own. Neither of us was born to wealth, but by living frugally and investing, we’ve saved enough to make a difference. Not a Warren Buffet difference, but a difference nonetheless. We choose to make a difference for the natural world, and believe Earthjustice can most effectively do that.”

“We choose to make a difference for the natural world, and believe Earthjustice can most effectively do that.”

—Ben McClinton

Evergreen Council Member

Jerry Neff

“Through the years I have been fortunate to visit many national parks and other public lands. Hiking, backpacking, canoeing and biking have taken me on many adventures in the great outdoors. From the depths of Death Valley, to the summit of Mt. Rainier, and to the Appalachian Trail, I’ve developed an appreciation for wilderness.”

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“There have always been those who want to develop government land for short term economic gain. They fail to see the true value that forests and lakes, mountains and streams, desserts and bogs, provide for the common good. Good lawyers and the courts make the final decisions on the future of wilderness. That’s why I give to Earthjustice.”

Linda Schmidt

“I taught my family the importance of preserving our natural world and ways of coexisting with nature. Even though we never had a lot of money, we always supported environmental organizations and gave what we could. We especially support Earthjustice because they harness our most important tool, the law. What we choose to do with our charitable gifts, even if they are modest, can and should reflect our values. I wanted my gift to help the environment, which is why I set up a charitable gift annuity with Earthjustice. I like to know that, when I am gone, my gift will continue working to protect regions that are so dear to me.”

“I wanted my gift to help the environment, which is why I set up a charitable gift annuity with Earthjustice.”

—Linda Schmidt

Evergreen Council Member

Alan Locklear and Marie Valleroy

“We have an old t-shirt from Earthjustice: an image of a spotted owl with the caption, ‘I’ve got a good lawyer.’ Wildlife, ecosystems, and other environmental causes need smart, dedicated attorneys. Earthjustice fills that need and we’re proud to support it.”

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Alan & Marie have included a provision in their estate plans to benefit Earthjustice. Learn more about how you can make a special gift through your will or trust.

James and Mina

“We included Earthjustice in our estate plans because we believe in charitable giving. Helping get something done makes you feel good! We don’t need to feather our nest; our family is well taken care of and also knows that giving to charity is a great thing.”

James and Mina made plans to transfer assets in their bank accounts to Earthjustice after their lifetimes.

Isolee Smith

Isolee Smith, with her late husband Sandy, has been an Earthjustice member and supporter for more than four decades.

Her family connection to Earthjustice runs deep – her children are all committed environmentalists and two sons had long careers with Earthjustice.
“Our whole family has been interested in environmental issues for a long time,” shares Isolee. And she is also reminded of why conservation matters through another family connection she experiences every time she walks outside: “My husband’s great grandfather was the original settler out here. The property is home to quite a bit of wildlife, especially birds. So that reinforces my desire to maintain and protect the land and habitat.”

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The Smiths found Earthjustice’s legal work to be a natural focus for their philanthropy. “My husband was an attorney before he retired and I was a court reporter, so we’re very comfortable with Earthjustice’s legal work.”

In addition to the Smith’s decades of membership, support, and engagement, in 2008, Isolee and Sandy decided to donate real estate – two apartment buildings – to Earthjustice by creating a charitable remainder unitrust (CRT). The trust makes payments of 5% of the value of the trust yearly for 15 years, after which the remaining funds will come to Earthjustice.

“A gift of real estate was something that we were comfortable with and worked well with our family situation. We liked the tax advantages, particularly being able to avoid capital gains taxes that would have been due if we had sold the property. And by the time we set up the trust, our children were educated, grown and on their own, so we didn’t have the same concerns with providing for them. It was a very good fit for us. We established the CRT in 2008 and I have been very happy with our gift since then.”

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Robin Steele, Julie Carlevaro, Gabriel Rosenstein, John Calaway, Abigail Oduol, Elizabeth Hill, EddieJoe Cherbony (not pictured)

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