A farewell from Valerie Brown
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A farewell from Valerie Brown

Yes, I love the sometimes boring and monotonous work of putting together a legal claim. 

Pouring through records and studies to learn new facts, analyzing earlier cases to understand the nuances of the law, and being able to present that information in a way that compels agencies and companies to follow the law can be very rewarding. 

Valerie says farewell, but we know she’ll visit with her best friend Lilou.

I love being able to guide our clients through the overwhelming morass of governments and laws that impact the air, water, lands, and our neighborhoods. And these past few years as legal director, I’ve loved helping other lawyers do the same.  

I have spent most of my life in Alaska, and most of my career at Trustees for Alaska, so it is with some sadness that I have decided to stop the full-time practice of law. 

We do it together

I’ve been able to help achieve some great things because of my legal credentials and the support of the Trustees’ team. I’ve been a client, fighting with Trustees lawyers in the late 1980s to keep the Arctic Refuge from being opened to oil development. I was a legal intern in 1994, fighting the road to Cordova, and witnessing the birth of Cook Inletkeeper, made possible by the settlement of a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by earlier Trustees lawyers. I was a staff attorney in the late 1990s when we forced the State to protect beluga whale habitat from Cook Inlet oil and gas leasing.  

We stopped the Municipality of Anchorage from giving away public land to subsidize questionable golf course development in Girdwood. And eventually, after the work of many, many lawyers, we succeeded in getting endangered species protection for the Cook Inlet beluga whale, and a designation of Critical Habitat for much of Cook Inlet.  

There have been so many fights and campaigns since those early days. Even when I left for a while to run my own solo practice, I continued to co-counsel with Trustees, because the work we do here is so important. I came back full-time in 2011 as a senior staff attorney, and I have had the privilege to be the legal director since 2014.  

Trustees attorneys Valerie, Suzanne, and Brook in front of “The Four Justices” portrait at the Smithsonian.

Trustees for Alaska provides a critical service for so many people and organizations who are working to protect America’s Arctic, Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and all the other places in Alaska that we care about, honor, and call home.  

There’s no place I’d rather work

The staff at Trustees, and the people we represent have been what motivates me to do this work. There is not anywhere else I would rather work or any place else I would rather live. Though I’m retiring from fulltime legal work, I’m staying right here in Alaska, and I plan to continue to support the protection of the fish, wildlife, air and water that we all need to survive and thrive. 

Brian Litmans is now legal director. He is kind, funny, and compassionate, and I know he will continue to make Trustees a great organization and a great place to work. Our team of lawyers has unprecedented depth and longevity and I will miss my day to day work with all of them.  

This work is hard, and it speaks volumes that we have retained so many staff for so long. As Trustees’ workload and staff grows, Vicki is here, providing the backbone and the leadership that makes everything we do possible.  It has been a privilege to work at Trustees and with all of you.