Phil and Kathy Carlsen: Planning now to ensure a sustainable and resilient future

Phil and Kathy Carlsen: Planning now to ensure a sustainable and resilient future

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A friendly introduction 

Motivated by a lifelong love of the outdoors, Phil and Kathy Carlsen are deeply invested in environmental conservation. When they were introduced to Audubon Canyon Ranch in the mid-90s by a friend who was volunteering for the organization, they wanted to learn more. Phil and Kathy’s involvement began, simply, with visits to Martin Griffin Preserve and Cypress Grove Research Center in West Marin. They also attended social gatherings at Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen. 

Service and science motivate the Carlsens 

Phil remembers, “It’s not a very complicated story,” yet their path from casual involvement to committed volunteers demonstrates a deepening personal commitment to Audubon Canyon Ranch’s mission of connecting nature, people, and science for a more resilient world.  

Phil’s experience as an education docent followed by his service as president and treasurer of the Board of Directors has given both Phil and Kathy keen respect for the organization’s role in local conservation work. They also appreciate the professionalism and enthusiasm of the organization’s staff. As Phil puts it, “Audubon Canyon Ranch makes the world a better place by helping people understand how humankind fits into the big scientific puzzle.”   

A diversity of solutions for now and the future 

Fire Forward, the organization’s prescribed fire program, especially resonates with Phil and Kathy. The program trains and supports property owners, land managers, and others to safely use “good fire” to restore the health of the land and buffer neighborhoods against the effects of wildfire. 

“We live in Santa Rosa, so we really know what wildfires are,” they shared.  

Increasingly, good fire also means good jobs that sustain North Bay families — something equally important to the Carlsens. “The work Audubon Canyon Ranch is doing with fire is truly leading edge and is one of our best hopes to get a handle on Northern California’s wildfire challenges,” Phil says. 

“We have to make more people aware of our work and how confident we are in that work,” he says, reflecting his role on the board. 

Having experienced recent wildfires, the Fire Forward program especially resonates with Phil and Kathy Carlsen. Photo: Sasha Berleman

Finding ways to get involved and encouraging others 

Reflecting on her experience with Audubon Canyon Ranch’s people and programs over the past three decades, Kathy emphasized the personal significance of the organization.  

“Both my parents were educated in the sciences, and I grew up outdoors,” she shares. “It has always been important to me to enjoy the environment, and our children and grandchildren have an appreciation for that, too.” Kathy says Audubon Canyon Ranch’s vision for a world where nature benefits all aligns with her own values. 

This personal connection spurred Phil and Kathy’s support. They believe in encouraging others, especially younger people, to learn about and support Audubon Canyon Ranch today. “No matter how small, donating gets you involved with the organization and its mission,” Kathy shares. 

Modini Preserve. Photo: Michelle Cooper

A personal stake in conservation work, in perpetuity 

Phil and Kathy’s decision to include Audubon Canyon Ranch in their estate planning — by naming the organization as a beneficiary of their IRA — stems from their belief in its mission and desire to support its future.  

“I want this organization to be around in fifty years,” Phil explained. “It’s really no more complicated than filling out a form.” He encourages others to consider a legacy gift to environmental nonprofits like Audubon Canyon Ranch.  

Estate gifts to Audubon Canyon Ranch are directed to the organization’s endowment. “The funds are designed to operate in perpetuity, so future generations benefit from the resources,” explains Todd Au, senior vice president at Graystone Consulting, institutional consultants specializing in helping nonprofits incorporate impact investment strategies aligned with mission.  

“Policies and strategies are in place so that years from now, this portfolio has the same purchasing power to do the same good work that Audubon Canyon Ranch is doing today. It will outlive all of us. We’re just here for a moment in time.”  

Estate planning is easier than you think 

For Phil and Kathy Carlsen, giving to Audubon Canyon Ranch — as a member, volunteer, annual donor, and supporter through the Clerin Zumwalt Legacy Circle — is an investment in realizing a sustainable and resilient future. They invite all who value the Audubon Canyon Ranch mission to join them in making that investment. 

Naming a charity as the beneficiary of your IRA is one of the easiest ways to support a favorite charity through your estate plan. For more information, contact Director of Philanthropy Jen Newman at [email protected] or 415-868-9244 x119. 

Learn more about the Clerin Zumwalt Legacy Circle >