aka WELC   |   Eugene, OR   |


The Western Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to foster thriving, resilient western U.S. lands, waters, wildlife, and communities in the face of a changing climate.

Notes from the nonprofit

As a public interest law firm, WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish our mission.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich

Deputy Director

Sristi Kamal Ph.D.

Main address

120 Shelton McMurphey Blvd., Suite 340

Eugene, OR 97401 USA

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NTEE code info

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

Public Interest Law/Litigation (I83)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The biggest challenge our organization currently faces is fighting back against the unprecedented attacks on our nation’s bedrock environmental laws—including most notably the National Environmental Policy Act—are creating incredible challenges for our legal team to use the power of the law and the courts to protect our environment and communities.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

General Summary

We work to ensure a West with vibrant, sustainable and healthy communities; clean and abundant water; a functioning, connected network of permanently protected ecosystems; and the resilience to adapt to global warming. Our work fits into two broad areas of focus toward these goals:
(1)Permanent protection and healthy functioning of ecosystems, including wildlife corridors;
(2)Environmentally healthy, livable communities with preservation of surrounding environmental resources.

In addition, we focus our local and regional strategies to respond to the impacts of climate change to:
(1) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our communities and assist in developing solutions that will enable them to adapt to the impacts of climate change;
(2) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the resource extraction industries on our public lands; and
(3) Protect the resiliency of our wild lands and preserve their critical functions of providing habitat for all species, reserves for carbon sequestration, and their role in the sustainable management of our clean water resources.

Population(s) Served

Our world is warming, with dire consequences to the western U.S.'s iconic lands, rivers, wildlife, and communities. The climate crisis links us all: we are all responsible for our reliance on the dirty, carbon-intensive fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gas pollution and smother our planet by trapping the sun’s heat and triggering rapid, irreversible climatic shifts.  But, as the saying goes, in every crisis rests opportunity. With the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to sharply reduce greenhouse gas pollution and transition to a new, clean, carbon-free energy economy. At the same time, we can protect the landscapes that provide us with clean water, clean air, lands to farm, and places to hunt, fish, and play. But this means more than individual action: it means the creation and enforcement of smart laws and policies that harness the western U.S.'s ingenuity.

Population(s) Served

In the western U.S., we’re witnessing an unprecedented push for wind, solar, and other clean, renewable, carbon-free energy resources. This clean energy revolution won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but with our collective hard work, it’s going to happen. In the process, we’ll help safeguard our climate and spark our economy. Put simply, we’re working to harness the can-do spirit and ingenuity to transition away from dirty fossil fuels and toward clean energy. As individuals, we’re already doing our part by conserving energy, recycling, buying locally-made goods, and driving less. But we also have to work hard as citizens of this country to ensure that our government’s laws and policies reflect our values as Americans. At the end of the day, it’s about our actions and responsibilities not just as individuals, but as citizens engaged in the evolution of our next generation of environmental laws and policies that will propel us into our clean energy future.

Population(s) Served

The western U.S. is defined by its natural heritage of wildlife, rivers, forests, and wildlands. The region is blessed with communities of life that make it special. Since its inception, WELC has worked hard to preserve and restore unique characteristics of the western U.S., including wildlife species and their habitat; free-flowing rivers; and landscapes of quiet and solitude. The Wildlands program has six emphases, each of which reflects WELC’s focused efforts to ensure that the western U.S. remains the geography of hope.

Population(s) Served

One of WELC’s members remarked that as a high school student he remembers vividly lying awake at night in his sleeping bag in Glacier National Park in Montana, with an unusually keen focus on the sounds of the wind and trees, for the singular reason that he was camped in the range of the grizzly bear. The mere presence of that magnificent animal, even if miles away, gave that place a truly rare nature. Those who live in or love the West are fortunate that the region still provides habitat for wildlife as varied as the grizzly, wolverine, spotted owl, and mountain yellow-legged frog.
Historically, the region has struggled with how to live with and respect certain species. But generally, our impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat has been dramatic. And now climate change exacerbates those effects. Within the Wildlands program, we focus on preserving or restoring seven wildlife species indigenous to the West. They are in particular need of work because they are listed or warranted for listing under the ESA, they are susceptible to climate change, or they need special habitat. In these efforts WELC is proud to work with conservation partners such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, Sierra Legacy, and the Montana Wilderness Association.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


Outside Magazine's Best Places to Work, top 3 2021

Outside Magazine

Best Nonprofit 2021

Oregon Business Magazine

Environmental Group of the Year 2020


Torch Award winner for ethics 2020

Better Business Bureau

Charity of the Year 2020

Better Business Bureau

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of stakeholders/stakeholder groups with whom communication has been achieved and expectations shared

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

General Summary

Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

WELC integrates national policies and regional perspectives with the local knowledge of our 165+ partner groups, free of charge, to implement smart and appropriate place-based solutions.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We use the power of the law to safeguard the wildlife, wildlands, and communities of the western U.S. We envision a West with thriving, resilient wildlands, waters, and wildlife; a region powered by clean, renewable energy; and communities that are rooted in an ethic of conservation.

WELC strategically employs a complete set of advocacy tools—including direct engagement with agencies, policy, litigation, and collaboration—to build, defend, and enforce a legal framework for conservation that is:
(1) Informed by science and economics;
(2) Rooted in and accountable to communities, wildlife, and special places in the West;
(3) Cognizant that we rely on ecological systems that provide us with food, water, homes, and energy;
(4) And complementary to efforts that revitalize our civic and democratic institutions.
We leverage the law through strategic advocacy campaigns and projects. These campaigns and projects also integrate national policy strategies and regional perspective with the local knowledge of our 100+ partner groups.

Our highly experienced team of talented attorneys, conservation biologists, and Western policy experts. Annually, we partner with more than 180 organizations ranging from large, national environmental protection organizations to small, grassroots conservation groups. We are able to protect and preserve the American West through a regional vision. Each of our offices in Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, and Washington listens and acts upon the local needs of wildlife, wildlands, and communities, and takes necessary action to safeguard the climate as well as promote clean, renewable energy.

Top Recent Victories:

In a historic victory, our legal team ensured grizzlies in the Yellowstone region will remain protected by the Endangered Species Act. The court rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to put politics before science in determining the fate of these vulnerable bears. This win for the Yellowstone bears is important for the recovery and survival of grizzly bears across the American West.

Saving Wildlife from Illegal Fur Exports: e took the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to court over its international fur export program because it facilitates the export of thousands of animal pelts each year with little oversight. Now the USFWS must review their policies to better prevent Canada lynx from being killed in traps set for bobcats.

Securing a Historic Win for Climate Change:
For over a decade, WELC has led a national coalition seeking to address an enormous yet silent climate
killer: methane gas from oil and gas drilling. Natural gas is made mostly of methane, and while it
is invisible to the naked eye, it is a greenhouse gas 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide. We
advocated for the Obama administration’s development of strong rules to address rampant methane
pollution from oil and gas companies operating on public lands. Predictably, the Trump administration
and industry allies attacked those rules every way they could. We defeated their clumsy attempts to
green-light unnecessary pollution and waste four successive times—three times in federal court and
once in Congress. This year, in the most serious and consequential challenge to these common-sense
climate protections, we prevailed a fifth time over fossil fuel industry greed. Our victory will have
longstanding protections for our climate and communities.

We saved 145,063 acres from fracking in Montana: In another major victory, our team protected Montanans, their livelihoods, clean water, public lands, and our climate. We prevailed, showing the Bureau of Land Management failed to consider risks to the environment and water supply before issuing 287 oil and gas leases covering 145,063 acres of Montana’s public lands. We partnered with rural landowners and other conservation groups to win this case in federal court. This case is part of our integrated legal and policy approach to end reckless fracking across the West.

We are in court, using the full power of the law to defend NEPA, our country’s most significant
environmental and public health protection, and a critical environmental justice law.
This case is one of the most important fights of our generation.

For more results on our work, please visit:

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 03/06/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Karin Sheldon

Four Echoes Strategies

Term: 2016 -

Board co-chair

Peggy Nelson

8th Judicial District Court, New Mexico (Retired)

Term: 2016 -

Kevin Kirchner

CenterPoint Communications

Lisa Manning

Center for Creative Leadership

Phil Katzen

Kanji & Katzen, PLLC

Karin Sheldon

Four Echoes Strategies

Peggy Nelson

8th Judicial District Court, New Mexico (Retired)

Denise Fort

Brooke Williams

Brian Henning

Gonzaga University Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Not applicable
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/6/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Asian/Asian American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

Transgender Identity

No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 05/21/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.