Elaine Spencer

To understand Elaine’s approach to her practice, look beyond her education, extensive legal experience and deep industry knowledge. Her father championed the importance of generationally profitable, working farms. He viewed farming as a marriage of business, science and art. In that tradition, Elaine has championed her clients’ rights to use, sell, or develop their land.

Her practice areas include industry, forestry, fisheries, and real estate development.  Each has its own opportunities and unique set of challenges. Success, across such diverse industries, doesn’t happen without two things coming together in equal measure. A keen understanding of the law. And an equally keen understanding of each client’s business.

Elaine’s success comes from a combination of legal skills, industry knowledge, and the strategic ability to claim the high ground in controversial matters early, and to maintain that high ground to achieve her client’s objectives.

Admitted to practice in Washington and Oregon.


Yale Law School
Juris Doctorate

Iowa State University
Bachelor of Science, with distinction



Representative Experience

Seattle Historic Waterfront Association v. City of Seattle

Represented the owners of the historic piers along Seattle’s central waterfront in persuading the State and City to build the deep bore tunnel, then insisting on full disclosure of the environmental impacts of replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Elliott Bay seawall and obtaining adequate mitigation.

Newport Yacht Club v. City of Bellevue and King County

Represented the City of Bellevue in claims by landowners at the base of Coal Creek that the City had violated the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act and committed nuisance and trespass as a result of sedimentation caused by the combination of urban storm water and historic coal mining along Coal Creek. Case settled to satisfaction of all parties.

Chuckanut Conservancy v. Washington Department of Natural Resources, 156 Wn.App. 274 (2010)

Defended DNR’s issuance of a determination of non-significance under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for the Blanchard Forest Strategies.

Washington Department of Wildlife v. Washington Forest Practice Board and DNR

Lead counsel for the WFPA in protecting the “500-acre rule” for the northern spotted owl, that allowed $2 billion worth of private timber to be harvested over the objections of the environmental community and the Department of Wildlife. After the trial court sustained the rule, assisted the WFPA in developing a draft rule for the northern spotted owl based on science that is essentially the rule now in effect.

Yakama Indian Nation v. DNR and Boise Cascade Corporation, Washington Forest Practices Appeals Board (WFPAB) Nos. 96-38, 97-11

Represented Boise Cascade in appeal of permit claimed to injure a northern goshawk and pileated woodpecker. The decision held DNR had no authority to condition or deny permits based on threat to wildlife, where the species itself was not threatened by the permit.

Yakama Indian Nation v. Boise Cascade Corporation, WFPAB, numerous

Settled a series of tribal appeals based on archeological resources (lithic scatter) by negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding that allowed the client to move forward without continual challenges by the tribe.

Ocean Advocates v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 167 F.Supp. 2d 1200 (W. Dist. Wash 2001), reversed 361 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2004), opinion modified 402 F.3d 846 (9th Cir 2005)

Represented major industrial company in an unsuccessful defense of the permit for a dock expansion, issued without preparation of an EIS.

U.S. v. Washington (Phase II), 759 F.2d 1353

Wrote the Ninth Circuit amicus brief for a coalition of Washington businesses seeking reversal of the District Court’s declaratory judgment that tribes had a treaty right to control or veto development that would tend to damage fish runs for which the tribes had treaty fishing rights.

Allingham v. Seattle, 109 Wn.2d 947 (1988)

Represented the plaintiffs in the first case in Washington invalidating zoning based on a regulatory taking.

In re City of Seattle, 96 Wn.2d 616 (1981)

Represented property owner in preventing condemnation of their property for the proposed Westlake Mall project. Represented numerous property owners before planning departments, planning commissions, and elected officials where their ability to use their property was challenged based on various environmental claims.

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71 Columbia Street, Suite 325
Seattle, WA 98104

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