Palouse Champion Leaves a Legacy

June 15, 2021

By Heidi Lasher, Conservancy Volunteer and Strategic Communications & Policy Consultant

For most of Alice Clausen’s life, she saw the sun rise and set over the Palouse. Her home near Spangle, Washington south of Spokane had been her husband’s childhood home. She spoke passionately about the farmland and the pockets and seams of brush and tall grasses that she shared with birds and wildlife. While appreciative of farming, she despaired of changing practices that degraded the soil and wildlife habitat. She described once being able to drink from the creeks that flowed across the property, which now ran with “brown froth.” Watching the lands around her farm subdivided and sold into smaller and smaller pieces, she recognized that once the land was carved up and converted to development, it would be forever lost. In 2018, Clausen worked with the Conservancy to place her 1,100 acres of rich Palouse farmland into conservation easements, preventing its subdivision and development.

Later, she initiated a series of conversations with the Conservancy, her attorney and banker about making a planned gift upon her death. “‘Planned giving’ refers to any major charitable gift made as part of a donor’s overall financial and/or estate planning,” explains Conservancy executive director Dave Schaub. “These gifts can include equities, life insurance, real estate, personal property or cash.” In Clausen’s case, the gift to the Conservancy was half of her retirement account, worth $400,000. 

A sunset over the Palouse Prairie, viewed from Steptoe Butte in Eastern Washington

Alice Clausen passed away peacefully in her home under the vast Palouse sky last fall. Her generous gift has made a substantial addition to the Conservancy’s endowment funds, which are managed by the Innovia Foundation, a community foundation serving Eastern Washington and North Idaho. “Our endowments are managed so that the earnings support our ongoing conservation work,” Dave explains. “This way the donor’s legacy gift keeps protecting vital lands and waters far into the future.”

“Alice wanted to see more land protected for wildlife,” said Chris DeForest, conservation director at the Conservancy. “She wanted to restore the health of the land.” Conservancy staff member Rose Richardson met with Clausen a year ago. Rose describes a pond that Alice wanted to show her. “It was a little pond, maybe 20 feet across, and we stayed there a long time talking about wildlife, local kids who tried to fish in it, game trails that came and went. Some trees she had planted with her husband had recently died, and she was excited to replant them for the birds.” The Conservancy intends to honor Clausen’s passion for the land and wildlife. Her $400,000 legacy gift will be used in part to support the Volunteer Land Steward program, to restore habitat, and conserve wild places throughout the Palouse and the Inland Northwest.

Planned gifts to the Conservancy’s endowment funds are an important component of the Conservancy’s financial sustainability. For more information about how your contributions can support regional conservation success far into the future please reach out to executive director Dave Schaub, contact the Innovia Foundation, or discuss with your attorney or tax advisor how to make a planned gift to Inland Northwest Land Conservancy.