The Coalition is sad to report that our advisor and friend Don Baur passed away on December 15, 2022.

Don Baur
Don Baur – Photo courtesy of Perkins Coie LLP

Donald Baur was a partner in the Washington, D.C. Office of Perkins Coie, where he practiced environmental, natural resources, and Native American law. He served as pro bono legal counsel to the Coalition since its inception and was the recipient of the 1872 Award in 2008. Don began his legal career as an attorney for the National Park Service in the Solicitor’s Office of the Department of the Interior. Later, he served as General Counsel of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.  Don was a passionate advocate for our national parks and a strong mentor to a new generation of conservation leaders. His passion, dedication, and kindness will truly be missed. For more information on Services for Don, click here.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared on the form below:



I first met Don Baur in 1981 when I was working for the National Park Service (NPS). I was the chair of a task force assigned to writing the first revision to the Code of Federal Regulations for the NPS in 30 years. I had an imposing work group – 15 seasoned law enforcement rangers from around the NPS. Don was a young attorney, just out of law school and hired into the Solicitor’s Office honors program at the Department (department). At our initial meeting, Don told the group that he was looking forward to working with us. Rick Gale put his arm around Don’s shoulders and said, “we know you will write the regulations that we want and need.” Two years later, the revised regulations were finalized thanks to Don’s great work and commitment.

Don left the department and became General Counsel for the Marine Mammal Commission. In 1987, he joined Perkins Coie, a prestigious environmental law firm. We continued to stay in touch. In 1990, I told him that I was leaving Philadelphia to return to the field – Olympic National Park. “Olympic,” he said, – “have I got an interesting project for you.” His firm was representing James River, owner of one of the two dams (Glines Canyon) blocking the Elwha River in the park. He said the company was willing to negotiate on dam removal but needed to be made whole. This was the start of long, difficult negotiations with many partners that resulted in legislation authorizing the dams’ removal in 1992. Negotiations continued, environmental compliance got underway, and of course funding had to be found. Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA), who represented the district, was a great supporter and fortunately sat on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. He succeeded in getting 15 consecutive appropriations to support compliance needs and dam removal. The removal started in 2011 and by 2014 the Elwha River was free-flowing – and the fish and wildlife started returning to the valley. This represents one of the most important ecosystem restoration projects in the NPS. Don’s role was significant and was one he never publicized or for which he took credit.

After I retired from the NPS in 2005, I joined the Executive Council of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition). It was clear that the group needed legal counsel. I asked Don if he was interested in helping. “Sure, I’ll help out,” he said. Over the next 15 years, Don donated thousands of hours of significant and critical legal counsel to the Coalition. There is no way to truly measure his contributions to the success of the Coalition. In 2008, he was honored with the Coalition’s 1872 Award and was named an Honorary Member in 2012 – small tokens of thanks.

I left the Coalition’s Executive Council in 2017 to establish the Park Institute of America, affiliated with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Once again, I turned to Don for help. His firm obtained our non-profit status and helped complete our articles of incorporation and bylaws. Don joined our group as an advisor. Just two weeks before his death, he agreed to work with me on another Institute project.

Don was an incredible advocate for our National Park System. But his greatest legacy may be his support and mentoring of the next generation of conservation leaders. He spent two weeks every spring at the University of Vermont Law School, teaching and inspiring young students about environmental work. He created so many important relationships. He was always identifying individuals who could work as interns for his clients, and many of these individuals moved into important positions in environmental organizations. One former student stated in a note on Don’s passing that “she was so fortunate to have Don believe in me and present me with opportunities to better the world and myself…I am inspired to carry on some small part of this legacy, as he would want me to do.” She was one of so many.

They say no one is irreplaceable. Don comes as close to that as anyone I’ve known.

Maureen Finnerty

Don and I were planning chairs for the ALI ABA course on Species Protection and the Law. He was a pleasure to work with. Due to his great experience and knowledge he was able to line up terrific faculty. We collaborate very closely and we received great evaluations. Don was a pre eminent expert an a mentor to so many. He was a kind and caring person. He leaves a great legacy and will be sorely missed

Larry Liebesman

I followed Maureen into WASO Ranger Activities in 1984 and had the great pleasure of working with Don there, and on a few projects afterwards. He is well up in my career list of good guys that I was fortunate enough to work and conspire with. As has been said, he was a passionate advocate for parks and resource preservation, and for inspiring others to make the same commitments. R.I.P.

Andy Ringgold

I was a student of Professor Baur at Vermont Law School. His Coastal Law & Ocean Policy class was instrumental in my career, and we greatly enjoyed hearing of his experiences in international environmental law. His is our Free Willy Hero. Thank you, Professor Baur. I wish his family the best.

Katarina Ruiz

Don — An amazing and absolutely sincere person who kept the wind in the sails for the movement to protect Planet Earth’s environment.

Jeff Peters