MoFo lawyers are recognized leaders in providing clients with strategic advice on developing and implementing sustainable business practices. But, we also practice what we preach by partnering with nonprofits that are breaking the mold when it comes to building a healthier, more sustainable future. From addressing climate change and protecting valuable land and water resources to jumping in when communities are affected by nature’s worst disasters, our lawyers are doing their part to ensure a more livable world for generations to come.

Climate Change

Pledging to Support Sustainability

As a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy (LSE), an initiative launched in conjunction with the Global Climate Action Summit, MoFo has pledged to provide $2 million in pro bono legal services for projects addressing climate change by the end of 2020. Our lawyers work closely with organizations that focus on developing and bringing to scale new approaches to building a more sustainable global economy.

Advising The Carbon Endowment

MoFo lawyers are working with The Carbon Endowment (TCE) to structure and launch a nonprofit/for-profit structure that will allow the group to significantly reduce carbon emissions from coal by off-lining coal deposits while helping coal-dependent communities make a sustainable transition to a greener economy. The firm also assisted TCE in a deal with Chugach Alaska Corporation to sell its Bering River coal rights to New Forests. The sale and retirement of this Alaskan coal field will not only secure long-term income for the community and protect an environmentally significant location, but it is also projected to prevent substantial CO2 emissions by leaving 65 tons of coal in the ground.

Gathering Data to Improve Cookstove Technology

Indoor wood fires for cooking, heat, and light, used by three billion of the world’s people each day, cause severe health problems for those who rely on them as well as environmental damage through deforestation and significant carbon emissions. Many models of cookstoves are intended to replace open fires and reduce these hazards, but which work best? Our pro bono client Nexleaf Analytics designed a remotely monitored home sensor system to measure cookstove performance. The data generated is being used by manufacturers to improve design and better understand use patterns, and to test pilot programs that pay homemakers for using the stoves.

Ensuring Power for All

Power for All is an NGO that advances renewable, decentralized electrification solutions as the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access. The organization is committed to delivering access to energy to people who live in rural areas and lack reliable power. Power for All was originally a project of a UK NGO and was largely funded through the UK Department for International Development. When it decided to create a U.S.-based nonprofit, MoFo lawyers undertook the necessary corporate and tax work.

Creating a Green Infrastructure Development Company

A multi-office team is helping The Nature Conservancy (TNC) bolster Washington, D.C.’s effort to control stormwater runoff, the highly polluting mix that results when rainwater washes oil, street waste, sediment and other pollutants into sewer systems and rivers. Our work focused on helping TNC to create a green infrastructure development company called District Stormwater, LLC, which aims to generate income while increasing participation in Washington, D.C.’s Stormwater Retention Credit program.

Disaster Relief

Providing information to those in need at a time of crisis is a pro bono priority at MoFo. What began as a response by the firm’s New York lawyers to the pressing legal and financial needs of those affected by the September 11th attacks has extended to the creation of multiple “Helping Handbooks” in response to natural disasters. Most recently, in response to California wildfires and mudslides, MoFo has issued a series of Helping Handbooks that offer individuals and small businesses affected by these disasters access to information and assistance that will help with recovery.

The Handbooks contain information on available sources of federal relief, insurance, employment, document recovery, fraud prevention, and other issues specific to each disaster. Dealing with legal and financial affairs is never easy but it is especially difficult amidst the grief and loss following a disaster. Producing these Helping Handbooks is a natural way for our firm to help individuals and businesses in affected communities to chart a way forward and begin to rebuild their lives.

  • MoFo Releases an Updated Version of its Helping Handbook for Those Affected by the Ongoing California Wildfires

    The recent wildfires have caused thousands of Californians to experience unimaginable losses. In Northern California, the Camp Fire in Butte County is the most destructive wildfire in California history, resulting in the deaths of an untold number of individuals, leveling the town of Paradise and surrounding areas, and displacing thousands of families from their homes.

    In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles counties and the Hill Fire in Ventura County have burned over 100,000 acres combined, resulting in at least three deaths, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate, and destroying over fifteen hundred homes and buildings.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently announced that residents in Butte, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties are eligible to register for disaster relief assistance. To help residents in the affected areas navigate through the options for aid and the various agencies providing it, Morrison & Foerster released an updated version of our Helping Handbook.

    The Fall 2018 California Wildfires Helping Handbook provides up-to-date, practical information for individuals, families, and small businesses on subjects including housing, government benefits, insurance, FEMA assistance, replacement of lost documents, and fraud prevention.

    We encourage the widest possible distribution of this resource. Organizations may request free print copies in bulk by sending a request to Firehandbook@mofo.com.

  • MoFo Releases Helping Handbook for Those Affected by Recent California Wildfires

    The lives of thousands of people in Northern California have been upended by the wildfires that have damaged and destroyed homes, businesses, and lives. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that residents of Shasta and Lake counties are now able to register for individual assistance for losses stemming from the disasters. As those affected by the disasters begin to chart a way forward they, and the agencies that help them, desperately need information on a wide variety of topics that touch on the law.

    Responding to this need, Morrison & Foerster has produced the Summer 2018 California Wildfires Helping Handbook. The Handbook gathers in one place up-to-date, practical information on many subjects, including, among others, housing, government benefits, insurance, FEMA assistance, replacement of lost documents, and fraud prevention.

    The Helping Handbook is now available. We encourage the widest possible distribution of this resource.

  • MoFo Releases Helping Handbook for Those Affected by Southern California Wildfires, Mudslides, and Related Disasters

    The lives of thousands of people in Southern California have been upended by the wildfires and related mudslides that have damaged and destroyed homes, businesses, documents, and lives. On January 15, 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that residents of Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties are now able to register for individual assistance for losses stemming from the disasters. As those affected by the disasters begin to chart a way forward, they, and the agencies that help them, desperately need information on a wide variety of topics that touch on the law. Responding to this need, Morrison & Foerster has produced the 2017-2018 Southern California Wildfires, Mudslides, and Related Disasters Helping Handbook. The Handbook gathers in one place up-to-date, practical information on subjects that include housing, government benefits, insurance, FEMA assistance, replacement of lost documents, fraud prevention, and many others. The Helping Handbook is now available online in English and Spanish. We encourage the widest possible distribution of this resource. Organizations may request free print copies in bulk by sending a request to Firehandbook@mofo.com and requesting the Southern California handbook.

  • MoFo Releases Helping Handbook for Those Affected by Northern California Wildfires

    The lives of thousands of people in Northern California have been upended by the wildfires that have damaged and destroyed homes, businesses, documents and lives. As those affected by the fire begin to chart a way forward, they, and the agencies that help them, desperately need information on a wide variety of topics that touch on the law.

    Responding to this need, Morrison & Foerster has produced the 2017 Northern California Wildfires Helping Handbook. The Handbook gathers in one place up-to-date, practical information on subjects that include emergency housing; government benefits; insurance; FEMA assistance; replacement of lost documents; fraud prevention and many others.

    The Helping Handbook is now available online in English and Spanish. We encourage the widest possible distribution of this resource. Organizations may request print copies in bulk by sending a request to firehandbook@mofo.com.

  • Our hearts go out to those affected by Superstorm Sandy, which dramatically affected the New York and New Jersey areas beginning on October 29, 2012. We have prepared this Helping Handbook to assist those in the New York-New Jersey area who have been impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The Morrison & Foerster Foundation has also donated $100,000 to fund disaster relief efforts.

    Superstorm Sandy Helping Handbook

    This Handbook provides an overview of the issues that individuals, families, and small businesses might experience as a result of the storm. We are grateful to acknowledge that the structure and much of the content replicates the Disaster Assistance Relief Manual compiled by Sarah Alba of Legal Services NYC with assistance from The Legal Aid Society, two organizations that have vast experience providing civil legal services to low-income persons living throughout New York City.

    This Handbook is current through November 16, 2012, but the information may change if federal, state, and county governments adopt additional measures to assist victims of Sandy. This Handbook does not constitute legal advice, and readers should not rely on or act upon the information in this Handbook. We urge you to also consult additional resources which may be more current that are specifically designed to assist those affected by Superstorm Sandy, such as those identified by National Disaster Legal Aid at http://www.disasterlegalaid.org. Hard copies of the handbook are available free of charge from Carol Bockner or Dana Alamia at the New York City Bar Association, cbockner@nycbar.org or dalamia@nycbar.org.

Ecological & Wildlife Protection

Pop-Up Bird Habitats in California’s Central Valley

MoFo collaborated with The Nature Conservancy to design and implement a “reverse auction” to create “pop-up wetlands” by paying farmers to flood their fields, off-season, in California’s Central Valley. The Conservancy sought a cost-effective way to increase wetlands available to migrating birds, whose populations have suffered drastic decreases as the Central Valley has converted to agriculture. Now, using data collected by the eBird app, the Conservancy pays rice farmers in the birds’ flight path to keep their fields inundated with irrigation water from the Sacramento River as migrating flocks arrive. A recent analysis found that Bird Returns is having the desired impact, significantly increasing the number of shorebirds passing through this agricultural region.

Protecting Tuna Fisheries in the Pacific

Sixty percent of the world’s annual tuna catch comes from waters controlled by 16 island nations in the Pacific Ocean, including Palau. Overfishing and illegal fishing in this region could lead to the collapse of Pacific tuna fisheries, putting Palau’s economy and culture at risk. MoFo is working with The Nature Conservancy to help the government of Palau create a model program for sustainable tuna fishing. Using their expertise in regulatory guideline development, government-NGO partnerships, bid processes, and economics, MoFo lawyers helped Palau develop a new model for regional fisheries management, with regulations that increase local control and improve the fisheries’ economic and environmental performance.

Developing Patents to Save Prairie Dogs

Lawyers in MoFo’s San Diego office filed a patent application for the World Wildlife Fund and its inventive partners for a device to dispense vaccine pellets at specified rates over thousands of acres to protect prairie dogs from sylvatic plague. While prairie dogs are not endangered, they are an important food source for the critically endangered black-footed ferret. The patent application also aims to discourage individuals from using similar devices for purposes such as poisoning wildlife that are inconsistent with our client’s mission.

Billion Oyster Project

MoFo real estate, corporate, and government contracts lawyers support the work of the Billion Oyster Project. The Billion Oyster Project is creating and seeding oyster beds in New York Harbor that will improve water quality, provide a habitat for other marine species, and increase the area’s resiliency to storm surges. The project actively involves students at New York’s public high school for the maritime industries and many other schools as well as the restaurant industry and environmental scientists, all working together to restore a rich oyster culture to the waters of New York Harbor.

Land Preservation & Conservation

Preserving Nature in Perpetuity

MoFo has created legal documentation for many land trust agreements and similar arrangements that permanently protect land against future development. In one transaction, the firm represented John Muir Land Trust, in partnership with the East Bay Municipal Utility District, in the acquisition of Carr Ranch, a 604-acre parcel in Contra Costa County. The Utility District will ensure that the ranch is permanently preserved as watershed land thereby protecting wildlife habitats, maintaining open spaces and natural scenery, and preserving the area’s ranching heritage. The firm has also advised Scenic Hudson on land acquisition. Scenic Hudson’s mission is to protect and restore the Hudson River, its riverfront and the majestic vistas and working landscapes beyond as an irreplaceable national treasure for America and a vital resource for residents and visitors.

Counseling on an Innovative Pooled Timber Fund

The Nature Conservancy sought MoFo’s counsel to ensure that its Pooled Timber Fund complied with federal securities laws. Created with the nonprofit New England Forestry Foundation, the new fund allows conservation-minded landowners to donate their woodland to the Forestry Foundation. The income generated from selling the timber goes into a pooled fund that ensures the land is managed in accordance with the Forestry Foundation’s green-certified practices and will generate income for the fund’s beneficiaries while protecting precious wildlife and habitats. By leasing already protected land to the pooled fund, TNC is able to support the production of local wood products while increasing the carbon storage of remaining trees.

Creating Open Space with Magnificent “Francisco Park”

MoFo San Francisco land use lawyers partnered with client Francisco Park Conservancy to negotiate a precedent-setting public-private partnership that will create a magnificent public park in the heart of San Francisco. The new “Francisco Park” will replace an abandoned reservoir on Russian Hill and provide much needed open space with stunning views of the Bay. Our client, Francisco Park Conservancy, a neighborhood-based nonprofit, will fully fund the design, construction, and maintenance of the park while the underlying land will continue to be owned by the city.

Protecting Public Access to Trails

MoFo litigators helped to defend the viability of “rails to trails” projects by filing amicus briefs in support of King County in Washington State in two cases that challenged the county’s public trail projects along old rail beds. “Railbanking,” authorized by a 1983 federal statute, permits railroads to allow trail agencies to preserve out-of-service rail corridors as trails until railroads need to use the land again. In both cases, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of public access to trails using abandoned railroad rights of way, and rejected attempts by adjacent landowners to limit the rights of trail managers to use the full width of the right of way, including for utilities and public transit.

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