Tom Waldo is the senior staff attorney in the Alaska office.
He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1981 and Stanford Law School in 1987. Tom clerked for Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Jay Rabinowitz in 1987–88. From 1988–89, he worked for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office as counsel to Department of Public Service.
In 1989, Tom moved back to Alaska to join the Earthjustice team. He develops and litigates a variety of cases in state and federal courts and administrative agencies to protect Alaska's public lands, wildlife, and air and water quality.
Cases in his docket have included protection of roadless areas and old growth habitat in the Tongass and Chugach National Forests, prevention of illegal disposals of state public domain lands, and protection of water bodies from acid mine drainage and other mining-related water pollution. Clients have included local and national environmental groups, tribal governments, tourism businesses, commercial and sport fishing organizations, and municipal governments.
I am inspired by our clients. We represent Native villages whose ancestors have occupied this land for a thousand years. We represent entrepreneurs who have started nature-based tourism businesses catering to the million visitors who come to the Tongass each year. We represent commercial fishermen who make their living in the waters surrounding the countless islands of the Tongass.
All of them share a deep bond with the land and want to protect its abundant fish, wildlife, and old-growth forests. Our litigation has given me the opportunity to meet many of them, to learn their stories, and to understand why our work is important to their lives.
I started my job with Earthjustice in September 1989. Just two months later, the Forest Service approved a five-year logging plan under an ongoing 50-year contract with a giant pulp mill in Sitka, Alaska. The plan authorized logging of several hundred million board-feet of timber—tens of thousands of acres of clearcuts in prime old-growth habitat, with miles of new roads into pristine watersheds. Within a few weeks, we filed a lawsuit challenging it, and I have been working on Tongass issues ever since.
National forests are a way of life for my family and me. Living in Juneau, we are surrounded by the Tongass and do most of our recreation in it. My kids are adults living in other cities now, but both of them were born and raised in Alaska. Virtually every weekend we were out doing something in the Tongass: hiking, running, kayaking, skiing (of many varieties), ice-skating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and staying in remote Forest Service recreational cabins.
The Tongass is huge—500 miles long and 100 miles wide, spread out over 1000 islands and the coastal mainland. It encompasses mountains, ocean, glaciers, icefields, and old-growth rainforest. We have brown bears, black bears, wolves, eagles, whales, sea lions, all five species of Pacific salmon, and more.
Even after living here over 20 years, it continues to awe me.
"I am inspired by our clients … Our litigation has given me the opportunity to meet many of them, to learn their stories, and to understand why our work is important to their lives."