Staff and Board


Emily S. Stark, J.D. (Billings, MT), Executive Director

Emily is a 2008 graduate of Vermont Law School.  Before law school, Emily grew up hiking and exploring central Pennsylvania with her family and graduated from Penn State with her Bachelors of Fine Arts.  After law school Emily practiced law in both Montana and Washington.  While practicing, she volunteered for a land conservancy and helped start a native plant and tree nursery program.  She is a member of Kiwanis and served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Bozeman Kiwanis in 2013/2014.  She was also a member of the Board of directors for the Gallatin Quilt Guild.  Emily now lives in Billings with her husband, and is excited to be the Executive Director of  Plains Justice.

Board of Directors

Robert Merchant, M.D. (Billings, MT), Chair

Specializing in Pulmonary Diseases at the Billings Clinic, Bob joined the Billings Clinic in
1991 and is Board Certified in Critical Care, Internal Medicine and Sleep Medicine.  He received his medical training at 
New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York, his Internship, Residency and his Fellowship in
Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.

Carrie La Seur, Ph.D., J.D. (Billings, MT) Vice Chair and Founder

A seventh generation descendant of Montana homesteaders, Carrie is a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law graduate whose commentary and analysis have appeared in diverse publications including the Des Moines Register; Grist; Harvard Law and Policy Review; Huffington Post; Mother Jones; Oil, Gas, and Energy Law; and Salon. William Morrow published her debut novel, The Home Place, a literary thriller set in Montana, on July 29, 2014.  Carrie practices energy and environmental law for Baumstark Braaten Law Partners.

Winter King, J.D. (Berkeley, CA)

Winter is a partner at the law firm of Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger in San Francisco. She joined the firm in 2004 after completing a clerkship with the Honorable Marsha S. Berzon of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Winter represents community groups, public agencies, and Indian Tribes in a wide range of environmental and land use issues. Her practice areas include CEQA, NEPA, state general plan and zoning law, and federal Indian law.

Tom Towe, J.D. (Billings, MT)

Thomas E. Towe attended a Quaker Boarding School, Westtown School, and Earlham College.  He has a law degree from University of Montana, an LLM from Georgetown University and is a candidate for an SJD at the University of Michigan.  He was in Army JAGC before opening his law office in Billings, Montana in 1967. His practice is general with emphasis on commercial litigation, estate planning, farm and ranch issues, Indian Law, and class actions. He has served as chief counsel to both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Tribes and is a member of the bar of 4 of Montana’s Tribal Courts.  He served for 20 years in the Montana Legislature, 4 in the House and 16 in the Senate.  He was the chief sponsor of the coal tax legislation, the coal tax trust fund, coal impact legislation,  the mental commitment laws, and a lot of environmental and juvenile legislation.  In 2013 he was appointed by Governor Bullock as the Chairman of the Montana Parks and Recreation Board and as a member of the Coal Board.  He also serves as an officer and board member of Our Montana and was a long time board member of the Institute of Peace Studies at RMC.  He has taught at the Law School at Berkshire University Law School in Ufa, Russia, and has traveled extensively.  His wife, Ruth was a long time director of the Moss Mansion and he has two sons, Jamie, who practices law in Missoula and Tofer, who teaches school in Portland, OR.

Jennifer Vanator, J.D. (Washburn, WI)

John Greenberger (Billings, MT)

Advisory Board

Ray C. Anderson, in memoriam:

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman of carpet manufacturer Interface, Inc. Ray led his company on a groundbreaking mission to eliminate any negative environmental impacts Interface may have, by the year 2020, through the redesign of processes and products, the pioneering of new technologies, and efforts to reduce or eliminate waste and harmful emissions while increasing the use of renewable materials and sources of energy. Ray eschewed a luxury car for a Prius, built an off-grid home, authored a book chronicling his journey, Mid-Course Correction, and became an unlikely screen hero in the 2004 Canadian documentary, “The Corporation” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The 11th Hour.” We were greatly honored to have Ray’s support during his life, and we hope that our work will honor his memory.

Devra Lee Davis, Ph.D., M.P.H.:

Author of the widely acclaimed book, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution (Basic Books, 2002), which won a National Book Award (the first book on the environment to win this award since Silent Spring) epidemiologist Devra Davis is one of the world’s most visible and outspoken advocates for improving the environment to protect public health. Dr. Davis is Visiting Professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School as well as Honorary Professor, London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and an Expert Advisor to the World Health Organization. President Clinton appointed Dr. Davis to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, (1994-99), an independent executive branch agency that investigates, prevents, and mitigates chemical accidents. As the former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, she has counseled leading officials in the United States, United Nations, World Health Organization and World Bank. Dr. Davis holds a B.S. in physiological psychology and a M.A. in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed a Ph.D. in science studies at the University of Chicago, as a Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellow and a M.P.H. in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University, as a Senior National Cancer Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow. She has also authored more than 170 publications. Find more information on Dr. Davis’s website.

Wes Jackson, Ph.D., M.A.:

Wes Jackson, President of The Land Institute, earned a BA in biology from Kansas Wesleyan, an MA in botany from University of Kansas, and a PhD in genetics from North Carolina State University. He established and served as chair of one of the country’s first environmental studies programs at California State University-Sacramento and then returned to his native Kansas to found The Land Institute in 1976. He is the author of several books including New Roots for Agriculture and Becoming Native to This Place and is widely recognized as a leader in the international movement for a more sustainable agriculture. He was a 1990 Pew Conservation Scholar, in 1992 became a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2000 received the Right Livelihood Award (called the “alternative Nobel prize”).

Carolyn Raffensperger, J.D., M.A.:

Carolyn is executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. As an environmental lawyer she specializes in the fundamental changes in law and policy necessary for the protection and restoration of public health and the environment. Carolyn is co-editor of Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy published by M.I.T. Press (2006) and Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle, published by Island Press (1999). Carolyn coined the term “ecological medicine” to encompass the broad notions that both health and healing are entwined with the natural world. She wrote a bimonthly column for the Environmental Law Institute’s journal Environmental Forum from 1999 until 2008. Carolyn has been featured in Gourmet magazine, the Utne Reader, Yes! Magazine, the Sun, Whole Earth, and Scientific American. Along with leading workshops and giving frequent lectures on the Precautionary Principle, Carolyn is at the forefront of developing new models for government that depend on these larger ideas of precaution and ecological integrity. The new models include guardianship for future generations, a vision for the courts of the 21st century and the public trust doctrine.

A Few of Our Volunteers and Their Contributions:

Ian Dees (Milwaukee, WI): Web design

Andrew Wildenberg, Ph.D. (Billings, MT): Information technology consulting services

Emma Burns Clean Energy Ambassadors volunteer

Emma is a recent graduate of Rocky Mountain College with an interest in natural resource management and policy issues. She is an outdoor enthusiast, and in her spare time she likes to hike, rock climb, and paraglide. 

Michael Kollker Coal Diver

Michael Kollker is a student at the University of Wyoming where he is working towards a Juris Doctor and a Masters degree in Environmental Science. He has been a volunteer contributor to the Coal Diver platform since early 2015. Michael is passionate about natural resource and environmental law issues, specifically those stemming from the transition away from traditional energy sources.
Michael grew up just outside of Chicago and has been living along the front range since 2004. It was after received degrees in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Affairs from Colorado State University that he decided to pursue graduate degrees in law and environmental science at the University of Wyoming.
In addition to his educational pursuits and volunteer work, Michael has been working with the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Natural Resources’ Ruckelshaus Institute, as well as various Wyoming state management agencies, on projects ranging from prairie dog and sage grouse management to the black-footed ferret’s reintroduction into it’s native range. He has also been assisting in several stakeholder analyses of oil and gas development proposals.
Michael intends to continue to work primarily on natural resource issues, especially those related to the energy transition. He currently lives in Laramie where he spends his time fly fishing, hunting, and recreating in Wyoming’s beautiful landscapes. He can be contacted at