Passing Down Preservation
Lisa and David Riggs devote much of their time to protecting the environment
Published in 2016 Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine
By Amy White on October 10, 2016
There’s a running joke in the Riggs family that goes something like, “Remember that time dad tried to wipe out the whole family on vacation?”
David Riggs laughs. “We once went to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, in Venezuela,” he says from Tulsa’s Riggs Abney Neal Turpen Orbison & Lewis, where he works with his daughter, Lisa. “I hired a local pilot to take us up in this little plane. The guy started to take off on an asphalt runway. He couldn’t get the plane to lift off, so he went back and rearranged our seating and tried again. It still didn’t take off, so he goes and gets two big gasoline containers filled with water to put in the nose of the plane. Finally, we were off. But talk about stupid.”
David says the family didn’t have a lot of money when he started his career, but “we could find a way to get to a national park. We drove and camped and made a lot of bologna sandwiches.”
Lisa recalls trips to the Sierras, Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons—sometimes when she was in diapers. As the five kids grew up, the trips got more exotic: the Serengeti, Chile, Peru.
It’s no wonder the two feel so close to the land.
“When you grow up by way of a stationwagon driving cross-country and hopping out and putting up tent poles, environmental work makes sense,” Lisa says.
Lisa and David—who work in medical malpractice and personal injury, respectively—devote much of their time to preserving the environment. David’s work goes back to the 1980s, when he authored the bill to create the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory.
“I wanted to know about every plant and animal that lived in Oklahoma,” he says. Once the bill passed, David found his way to the board of the state’s Nature Conservancy chapter. He was then appointed to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, and eventually joined the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center’s board.
Lisa also previously served on advisory boards for the Nature Conservancy, and currently serves on boards for Sutton and Land Legacy. “It’s both rural and urban landscapes [working together] trying to preserve green space and protect important habitats and watershed areas,” she says.
Most of their volunteerism is spent doing behind-the-scenes work.
“We concentrate in fundraising and raising awareness, but legal issues do come up,” Lisa says. “For instance, I do all the regulatory legal work for the Sutton Avian Research Center, and we have a fundraiser called Wild Brew. It’s a beer-tasting festival, and I interface with [the alcohol commission] to get permits.”
The duo is most proud of their ongoing work on a tract of 160 acres of land containing a beautiful stream that flows from the Ozarks into Oklahoma. “It was stressed by environmental problems with chicken farms and the land application of chicken manure,” he says. “It’s got rock bluffs and pine trees, unlike the rest of Oklahoma. I’m working to put it in a conservation easement, which simply means it can never, ever be developed and it will be limited to just the structures that are there now, and we’ll have to be committed to preserving her in her natural state. My children and their children and their children—and on through generations, I hope—will keep it that way.”
Family Trip – Need to plan your next adventure? Check out Lisa and David Riggs’ all-time faves:
“You must camp and hike in our gorgeous Wichita Mountains.” –DR
“The wonder that is Machu Pichu, the ancient Incan stone city above the clouds in the Andes.” –DR
“The very southern tip of the Western Hemisphere—maybe the most pristine place left on earth, with sky-blue rivers, waterfalls, lakes and the spectacular rock massif—the Torres del Paine.” –DR
“A very different but incredible escape: a driving trip across Germany on the Romantic Road from Frankfurt to Bavaria and back.” –LR
“My No. 1 favorite experience is lying in my tent in the Serengeti at night, waiting for the inevitable ‘huff, huff, huff’ of the lions. It gives me great joy to know they accept us as visitors in their kingdom—so long as we stay in our tents or vehicles.” –LR
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