Columbia Land Trust Hires a New Deputy Director and General Counsel
Steve Cook has joined Columbia Land Trust as our Deputy Director and General Counsel. Cook comes to Columbia Land Trust after 30 years in private practice, including 24 as an attorney and shareholder with Bullivant, Houser, Bailey PC. There, he gained expertise in many areas of business and real estate law— and negotiated complex contracts governing everything from the development of a landfill-gas power plant to the licensing of computer software.
Cook’s relationship with Columbia Land Trust dates to 2001, when he began advising Columbia Land Trust as a pro bono lawyer. In 2008 he joined the board and was elected board president in 2011. Through these roles and relationships, his love of the Pacific Northwest (his home since 1983) has deepened, as has his understanding of land conservation—so much that when Columbia Land Trust Executive Director Glenn Lamb offered Cook the job in February, Cook decided that it was time to meld his passion for the Pacific Northwest with his legal experience. As Deputy Director and General Counsel, Cook will work exclusively to conserve and protect the vital lands, waters and wildlife of the Columbia River region.
Columbia Land Trust has grown markedly since 1990, when it was an all-volunteer group that acquired just 200 acres in the first nine years. Today Columbia Land Trust cares for more than 21,000 acres of land—a figure that could very well double in the coming years. With such a significant responsibility, Columbia Land Trust recognized that having a general counsel in house would deliver big benefits: In addition to drafting and reviewing our contracts and engaging in the real estate negotiations that are part of our work, Cook will guard against future legal challenges that could threaten the great Pacific Northwest landscapes that we protect.
A graduate of Stanford Law School, Cook also understands that in the world of conservation, legal problem solving is not merely a cerebral endeavor. “Some lawyers enjoy law for the restrictions and the limitations of it,” says Columbia Land Trust Executive Director Glenn Lamb. “Then there are those who look at legal problems in a much more creative way and work to craft practical solutions. Steve is that kind of lawyer.” To illustrate the point: When Cook was asked to advise Columbia Land Trust about a pending acquisition of several miles of the Hood River in connection with the decommissioning of the Powerdale hydroelectric facility, Cook wasn’t content to review paperwork from his office. He drove out to Hood River to walk several miles atop the old wooden pipes that carried water to the power plant—pipes that were literally springing leaks—in order to see the property first hand.
It also helps that the Columbia River and the Cascades play a prominent role in his personal history: He still remembers a family road trip that took him through the Columbia River Gorge from his hometown outside Chicago when he was 15. Later, in 1992, he and his wife, Marianne Parshley, took a river cruise up the Columbia all the way from Astoria to Clarkston, a journey that brought him “more in touch with the river,” he says. Today his favorite Columbia River landscapes are those in the eastern, dry end of the Gorge. “It’s the magnitude of the landscape there,” says Cook. “I like the drama of being able to see so far into the distance.”
When Cook isn’t working from his rather humble set-up in the 19th-century house that is Columbia Land Trust’s headquarters (our old desks are well-used, just how we like it) he can be found hiking, riding his bike or working in his vegetable garden. He is the father to three accomplished daughters—Mimi, Gwen and Kathleen—and plays a supporting role to his wife, a practicing physician and avid cyclist who makes sure he gets out on his bike and encourages him to follow his dreams.