An Important Update About the Keta Legacy Foundation Lawsuit Against The Mountaineers

In September 2019, the Keta Legacy Foundation filed a lawsuit against The Mountaineers in the U.S. District Court and took other actions to try to cancel and oppose The Mountaineers trademark registrations and applications. Read an update on our efforts to resolve this dispute - a proposal for a mutually-agreeable solution that avoids a costly and distracting trial and honors the intent of donors.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
Chief Executive Officer
March 19, 2021

You may remember we shared an update in November 2019 and in a letter mailed in February 2020 about Keta Legacy Foundation pursuing litigation against The Mountaineers, challenging the ongoing use of our own name, which we’ve used continuously since 1906. Today, I’m writing to share an important update about our efforts to resolve this dispute in a constructive and amicable way, while protecting our donors, our name, and our community. 

Today, March 19, 2021, we presented this proposed agreement to Keta in an effort to allow both organizations to put this dispute behind us. The Mountaineers genuinely wants to resolve this dispute amicably and constructively without having to incur the additional cost and disruption of going to trial. We continue to work diligently to find the best path forward. We proposed this agreement in a way that first and foremost protects the wishes of donors, and allows both organizations to pursue our respective and related missions. I am sharing the details of this proposal with our community in the interests of transparency, so our members and supporters understand the spirit and specifics of what we’ve proposed to Keta to resolve this matter. 

KETA LEGACY FOUNDATION’S LAWSUIT AGAINST THE MOUNTAINEERS

As you may know, the Mountaineers Foundation was established in 1968 by The Mountaineers as a 501(c)(3), allowing benefactors to make tax-deductible contributions to support our mission. For decades, The Mountaineers and the Mountaineers Foundation worked together toward shared goals. In 2018, the Mountaineers Foundation revised its mission, which now is as follows: “Promote actions and foster understanding to inspire conservation from the Rhododendron Preserve to the Salish Sea region.” At the same time, it also changed its operating name to “Keta Legacy Foundation” but continues to be legally registered as “The Mountaineers Foundation.” 

When we learned that Keta intended to continue using The Mountaineers name for fundraising purposes, we reached out and requested they stop using our name and collaborate with us to find an amicable solution. We did this to serve the interests of donors who were confused by Keta’s name change and mission change. This was of particular importance after learning of incidences where donations and bequests were mistakenly gifted to Keta Legacy Foundation instead of The Mountaineers—the intended recipient. 

However, our attempts were largely rebuked. And, unfortunately, in September 2019, Keta Legacy Foundation filed a lawsuit against The Mountaineers in the U.S. District Court, and took other actions to try to cancel and oppose The Mountaineers trademark registrations and applications. While we were disappointed and surprised that Keta Legacy Foundation was contesting the use of our name, we want to come to a resolution to protect our donors and stop confusion. 

OUR PROPOSED SOLUTION

The Mountaineers believe that the two organizations can and should support one another’s respective missions. But to do that, the parties need to come to an agreement that ensures donors will not be confused by the similar names of the organizations. So, we developed a proposal that will allow The Mountaineers and Keta to reach a mutually-agreeable solution without going to trial, while still protecting donor intent. We shared this proposal with them today and are hopeful we can reach an agreement in the near future. 

I know the proposed agreement has a lot of legal language that may seem confusing. In plain English, the main points we’ve offered to Keta are straightforward:

  • By March 2023, the Keta Legacy Foundation will no longer use “The Mountaineers” name and will only use the name “Keta Legacy Foundation.” Between now and then, it may continue to refer to itself as “Keta Legacy Foundation, formerly known as the Mountaineers Foundation.”
  • Over the next two years, Keta and The Mountaineers will use an objective process for making sure that the wishes of donors are being honored. This means that we will review all larger contributions to ensure we’ve correctly honored donor wishes and to eliminate confusion over the proper recipient of specific donations and bequests.
  • We and Keta Legacy Foundation will update the standing agreement about the collaborative stewardship and use of our respective properties in Kitsap. This includes outlining the access to each property to ensure historical use continues in perpetuity. For example, this means shared access and use of places such as the Kitsap Forest Theater and the Big Tree trailhead will be protected for visitors and members.
  • In an effort to support Keta’s future success, The Mountaineers will extensively promote Keta’s mission to inspire conservation from the Preserve to the Salish Sea. This will include actions such as a communications campaign to The Mountaineers community and sponsoring fundraising events, celebrating our shared history, and encouraging people to support Keta’s mission with donations. 

We believe that this agreement will protect donor intent, eliminate possible confusion between the two organizations following the divergence of their missions, and place Keta on a solid footing toward developing their new brand and identity, apart from The Mountaineers. It will also protect the Preserv and our member’s historical uses of it, including the Kitsap Forest Theatre. The Mountaineers is proud of its shared history with Keta and wants to see it thrive in the future as it pursues its new and more focused mission. The proposal we’ve made to Keta is in this spirit, and we hope Keta will reciprocate in the interests of protecting donors, members, and our respective missions. 

MOVING FORWARD

We’re hopeful that reaching an agreement with Keta will allow us both to continue to progress towards our similar mission—namely the conservation of the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest. This has been a challenging situation for our organization and supporters alike, and we are anxious to put this dispute behind us. Ultimately, we are hopeful that both of our organizations will put our resources and focus on maintaining the beautiful place we all call home for decades to come.

The Mountaineers was established in 1906 with the mission: “To enrich the community by helping people explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond." Today, that mission still rings true, and now we are more focused than ever on conservation, connecting with people via community-centric activities and outdoor education. We ask those who are interested in supporting our work to direct gifts to The Mountaineers (Tax ID: 27-3009280). Gifts may be submitted online or sent to our mailing address: 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. If you previously included a bequest to the Mountaineers Foundation in your estate plan with the intent of benefiting The Mountaineers, we encourage you to update your will with this information, including our Tax ID number.

Likewise, we encourage members of our community interested in supporting Keta’s mission to direct gifts to them at their website, and note their Tax ID number: 23-7023350. We’re proud to be a part of the outdoor recreation and conservation community and it’s all the more important to The Mountaineers that your gifts and bequests go to support the organization and activities that each donor intends, whether that’s The Mountaineers, Keta, or other nonprofits.

If you have any questions about our proposed resolution to this issue, please feel free to reach out to me directly at tomv@mountaineers.org or 206-521-6009. 

Sincerely, 

Tom Vogl ET Formatted Signature.jpg

Lead image of Kitsap Forest Theater attendees enjoying a walk through the woods. Photo by Kristina Ciari. 


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