Firm Overview

Conservation Partners is dedicated to promoting the preservation of land. Conservation Partners specializes in advising, negotiating, and drafting agreements to protect agricultural lands, natural habitats, and open spaces. The team has successfully completed a vast array of transactions involving conservation easements, land acquisitions and sales, and carbon projects; we have also successfully resolved stewardship issues that arise post-transaction. The work of Conservation Partners has resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of land being conserved for the benefit of the public and in some cases for public use.

Conservation Partners’ practice ranges from legal services to consulting to employee and community training. We excel in providing our clients with strategies that are creative, economically feasible, and result in the long-term protection of land. Our strategies include assisting land trusts in securing funds from outside sources to pay for professional fees and stewardship endowments.

Conservation Partners’ principals are Ellen A. Fred, Misti M. Schmidt, and Eileen K. Chauvet, with Jocelyn Walters-Hird, Courtney Therien, and Shari Geller Diamant as Contracted Counsel, and William T. Hutton consulting as an adviser.

Team Profile

Ellen A. Fred



Ellen’s experience in the fields of tax, real estate, nonprofit governance, and alternative dispute resolution allows her to counsel her clients in all aspects of their work. Prior to beginning her legal career, Ellen worked for several nonprofit environmental organizations, including serving as founder and Executive Director of the Humboldt Watershed Council.

Ellen Fred is licensed to practice both in California and Michigan and actively practices in both states and nationwide. Ellen is also a certified mediator. Prior to establishing her solo practice and becoming Principal at Conservation Partners, Ellen was with the San Francisco law firm of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass, LLP, where she practiced for four years in its land conservation section. While in law school, Ellen externed for the Honorable Marilyn Patel, Chief Judge for the Federal District Court, Northern District of California, and Justice Carlos Moreno of the California Supreme Court, and prior to joining the Coblentz firm, she served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Melvin Brunetti of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Reno, Nevada. For several years before attending law school, Ellen worked in the environmental movement in Northern California, including co-founding the Humboldt Watershed Council and acting as its Executive Director; serving on the board of directors of a local land trust; producing educational materials; and participating in environmental and property rights litigation. Raised in Traverse City, Michigan, Ellen returned to the area in 2008 after beginning her legal career in California. Ellen lives on a small farm with her family, where they raise dairy goats and chickens and tend fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and a small vineyard. Her family and their land partners donated a conservation easement on the farm to the Leelanau Conservancy in early 2009. Despite living in Michigan, Ellen visits California on work-related matters regularly, with special trips as needs arise.


J.D., summa cum laude
University of California, Hastings College of the Law (2003)

B.A., high honors and distinction
University of Michigan (1993)

Ellen graduated with high honors and high distinction in Russian and Eastern European Studies from the University of Michigan in 1993. In 2003, Ellen earned her law degree, summa cum laude, from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she was elected to the Order of the Coif and the Thurston Society. She also successfully completed Hastings’s Tax Concentration Program and received the 2003 Arthur Andersen Prize in Taxation.

Honors and Awards

Ellen has served on numerous boards and councils, including the Land Trust Alliance’s Conservation Defense Advisory Council, and the Boards of Directors of the North Fork Trinity River Land Conservancy, Crosshatch Center for Arts and Ecology, and Great Lakes Children’s Museum, where she was named Chair.


Ellen has been a frequent presenter on myriad conservation law topics since 2004, including for the Land Trust Alliance and the California Council of Land Trusts. She recently co-presented the webinar “Strategies to Restore Indigenous Access to Land” for the Land Trust Alliance (2022) with Eileen Chauvet.

Misti M. Schmidt



Misti focuses her practice on conservation transactions and regularly provides guidance to property owners and land trusts regarding the structuring, negotiating, and closing of conservation easements, purchase agreements and options, and carbon projects. She has particular experience representing landowners with respect to the myriad legal issues arising for rural land holdings and representing land trusts with respect to nonprofit governance and tax-exempt gifts.

Misti spearheads the Carbon Working Group for the California Council of Land Trusts and is a contributing author to the firm’s blog, which provides insights into conservation and charitable contributions. Her recent articles include:

Misti is admitted to practice law in California, Washington, and Oregon. She has served as Editor-in-Chief for the California Real Property Journal, which is published by the State Bar’s Real Property Law Section. She is a member of the Land Trust Alliance and the California Council of Land Trusts. Prior to law school, Misti served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader at Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Kansas City, Missouri.

When she is not wearing her lawyer hat, you’ll find Misti gardening, indoor rock climbing, or playing board games.


LL.M., Taxation
New York University School of Law (2019)

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (2007)

B.A., cum laude
Louisiana State University (2002)

Misti received her B.A. from Louisiana State University (2002), where she graduated cum laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (2007), where she received a Certificate in Environmental Law, was Associate Editor of Ecology Law Quarterly, and was a member of the Moot Court Board. While at Boalt, Misti received the American Jurisprudence Award for Academic Excellence in The Law of Hazardous Waste: CERCLA, RCRA and Common Law Claims, and the Prosser Award for Academic Excellence in Animal Law. Prior to joining Conservation Partners, Misti practiced law at the following law firms: Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass, Wilson Sonsini, and Sheppard Mullin.

Honors and Awards

Misti was selected to receive the California State Bar Real Property Section’s 2016 Morning Star Award for young lawyers who have shown “early promise in real property practice and dedication of service to the State Bar and the highest ethical standards.” She’s also been honored many times for her pro bono legal services. She was awarded the Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service Award (2009, 2010, and 2012 – 2018) by the San Francisco Bar Association Volunteer Legal Services Program.


Misti’s publications and speaking engagements include:

  • Adjunct Professor of Law teaching Conservation Transactions at University of California College of the Law-San Francisco (formerly UC Hastings) (Spring 2024, 2022) and guest lecturer regarding carbon transactions for environmental law and policy classes at Colby-Sawyer College and Vermont Law School
  • Frequent speaker for the Land Trust Alliance and the California Council of Land Trusts in topics such as “Carbon Credits in Conservation Easements,” “Commercial Use Provisions in Conservation Easements,” “Recent Court Cases Affecting Land Trusts and Donations,” “Interactive Roundtable on Advanced Tax Issues and Case Update,” and “Practical Pointers on IRS Form 8283 and Contemporaneous Written Acknowledgement” (2016 – present)
  • Speaker for staff and lawyer trainings hosted by private landowners, land trusts, and other nonprofits (2016 – present)
  • Editor-in-Chief and Issue Co-Editor, California Real Property Law Journal, Issue 1, Volume 34; Issue 3, Volume 33; Issue 2, Volume 32; Issue 4, Volume 33; Article Editor, Issue 1, Volume 32, Issues 1, 2, and 4, Volume 31, and Issue 4, Volume 30 (2012 – 2021)

Eileen K. Chauvet



Eileen enjoys all aspects of real estate transactions, from the simplest license to complicated, multifaceted projects and her heart lies in conservation work. Her extensive experience in these areas allows her to serve clients with creative problem solving and reasoned advice.

Eileen came to Conservation Partners from the Office of the City Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, where she represented the City in real estate matters ranging from urban development to watershed management, and everything in between. Before her service at the City, Eileen was transaction counsel for The Trust for Public Land. At the Trust for Public Land, she guided complex conservation transactions and park development projects primarily in California, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii. Before joining The Trust for Public Land, Eileen was an associate attorney at the San Francisco-based firms Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP and Heller Ehrman LLP, where she focused on commercial real estate and conservation transactions.

When not practicing law, Eileen enjoys spending time with her family where she grew up in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, taking long hikes with her dog, Sadie, and exploring the wilds of the west, including northern Nevada and southern Utah.

Education and License

J.D., magna cum laude
Order of the Coif
Thurston Society
Editor-in-Chief, Hastings Law Journal
University of California, Hastings College of the Law (2003)

B.A., Oregon State University (1992)

Eileen is licensed to practice in California and Montana.

Honors and Board Service

Eileen was named Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2010 and 2012. In 2015, she received the Trust for Public Land’s Collins Award for exceptional work in the creation of the 688-acre Kashia Coastal Reserve that protected a mile of the California coast and returned the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians to their rightful home.

She was managing editor (2015-2017) and editor-in-chief (2017) for the California Real Property Journal, published by the California Lawyers Association Real Property Law Section (formerly the California State Bar Real Property Law Section).

Eileen served on the Board of Directors (Member, March 2016 to October 2017) of Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco, an organization that provides housing and legal services to those in need, particularly in the Tenderloin neighborhood. She also served on the Board of Directors (Secretary, Member 2011–2014) of South of Market Child Care, Inc., a non-profit that provides high-quality childcare to San Francisco children, primarily in the South of Market Neighborhood.


Eileen recently co-presented the webinar “Strategies to Restore Indigenous Access to Land” for the Land Trust Alliance (2022) with Ellen Fred.

Jocelyn Walters-Hird

Contracted Counsel


Jocelyn Walters-Hird’s practice has focused on conservation and environmental law, providing her with expertise in conservation easement drafting and enforcement and working with land trusts, with further experience in environmental law litigation.

Prior to joining Conservation Partners, Jocelyn was the Senior Staff Attorney with the Minnesota Land Trust in St. Paul, MN, where her practice involved completing conservation easement transactions and other real estate projects for the state’s largest nonprofit land trust. Jocelyn previously worked for the City of Chicago Department of Law in Chicago, IL, engaging in many aspects of state and federal litigation with a particular focus on environmental, contract, public utilities, and false claims matters. Jocelyn also has experience in private practice, focusing on natural resources, real estate, and consumer protection.

Jocelyn has served as Adjunct Professor of Law for a Real Property course at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, volunteered with the University of St. Thomas School of Law and Alliance Francaise-MSP, and, when not working, enjoys road trips, surfing, tennis, the great outdoors, yoga, creative non-fiction, farmers markets, fashion, and French pastries.

Education and License

Vermont Law School
Juris Doctor, cum laude, 2013

Master of Environmental Law and Policy, cum laude, 2013

University of Minnesota-Duluth
Bachelor of Business Administration, 2008

Jocelyn is licensed to practice in Minnesota and Illinois.


Jocelyn’s speaking engagements include presenting at “Understanding Easements, Licenses, and Restrictive Covenants in Minnesota,” for the Minnesota CLE (2022) with Amy Schwarz, “Soil Health Stewards: Promoting Soil Health on Protected Agricultural Lands” for American Farmland Trust (2022) with Chad Kingstrom, and “Minnesota Easements, Eminent Domain, and Riparian Rights” for Halfmoon Education (2023) with Amy Schwarz.

Close-up view of the old and big tree

Courtney E. Therien

Contracted Counsel


Courtney’s legal practice focuses on working with a broad variety of nonprofit organizations and joint ventures on entity formation, complex operational, tax, governance and planning matters, board disputes and mergers and dissolutions. She also represents donors with complex charitable gift planning.

Courtney previously worked as nonprofit tax counsel at Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass and Farella Braun + Martel. She was awarded the “Outstanding Volunteer” Award from the SF Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Program from 2009-2011.

Courtney balances her legal practice pursuing outside interests in theology, philosophy, and ancient languages, as well as dancing, traveling, and sharing memories with her family.

Education and License

LL.M., Taxation
New York University School of Law

J.D., Concentration in Tax Law University of California College of the Law, San Francisco (formerly University of California Hastings College of the Law)

B.A., English
University of California, Irvine

Courtney is licensed to practice in California.


Courtney’s publications and speaking engagements include:

• Frequent speaker at Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP and Farella Braun + Martel, LLP “Nonprofit Roundtable” series

• Presents for CPA firms on matters pertaining to nonprofit governance

• Has presented for the East Bay Estate Planning Council

• Frequent contributor of “tax notes” to the California Tax Journal (2013-2015)

• Authored “Proposed Guidance for Donor Advised Funds” in the California Tax Lawyer and presented on the same topic as a member of the California State Bar Tax Section delegation to Washington, D.C. (2014)

Shari Geller Diamant

Contracted Counsel


Coming soon!

Anne A. Hastie

Office Administrator / Paralegal


Anne joined Conservation Partners as Office Administrator following a 15-year career in education, which included roles in teaching, materials development, instructional design, program coordination, and grant writing. She currently manages billing and accounts as well as all administrative needs at Conservation Partners. As a lifelong lover of nature and the outdoors, and because of increasing urgency due to climate change, she is very excited to be working in the field of conservation now.

When not at work, she can be found reading sci-fi and fantasy novels, playing with her daughter, and trying to keep her backyard from becoming too overgrown. 


M.A., English 
San Francisco State University (2006)

B.A., Anthropology
University of Wisconsin – Madison (2000)

William T. Hutton

Advising (retired)


Bill Hutton is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the tax and financial aspects of land conservation transactions, and is widely recognized as an expert in nonprofit and tax law. He has acted as counsel to both national conservation organizations and to local and regional land trusts. He has also advised individuals and corporations on the full range of income and estate tax consequences of conservation transactions, as well as on the tax and legal issues that confront nonprofit charitable organizations and their directors.

Bill has advised in conservation easement transactions in California (including representation of the Irvine Company and the Hearst Corporation), Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New York (Suffolk County), North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, and Vermont.

Bill’s representative conservation easement transaction clients have included The Energy Foundation, The Conservation Fund, The Garden Conservancy, The Hearst Corporation, Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, Maui Coastal Land Trust, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Montana Land Reliance, Pacific Forest Trust, Peconic Land Trust, Rocky Mountain Institute, Tides Foundation, and The Trust for Public Land.

Bill also is a professor of law emeritus at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He has previously served as a member of the tax faculty at New York University School of Law and as a visiting professor at the University of Virginia and Stanford University law schools.

Bill was a founding board member of Conservation International and has served on the boards of Ecotrust, The Forest Trust, CoEvolution Institute, Schools of the Sacred Heart, and Community Action for Legal Services. Bill is a past chair of the California State Bar Taxation Section.

Bill graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College (1961) and earned his law degree from the University of Michigan School of Law (1964) and his LL.M. in taxation from New York University (1965).


New York University (1965)

University of Michigan Law School (1964)

A.B., summa cum laude,
Dartmouth College (1961)

Honors and Awards

Pacific Forest Trust Sequoia Award, for achievements representing national conservation organizations and local and regional land trusts (2013)

Best Lawyers’ San Francisco Lawyer of the Year: Tax Law (2010), continually listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the Tax Law category

California Council of Land Trusts Poppy Award for service to California’s conservation community (2005)

American Bar Association’s Section of Business Law Outstanding Academic Nonprofit Attorney Award (2002)

Taxation Section of California State Bar Association V. Judson Klein Award for outstanding service to the profession and to the public (1991)

Listed annually as a Super Lawyer in Northern California


Bill has lectured at virtually every major national tax conference and has taught summer courses to attorneys at the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Treasury.

Contact Conservation Partners