A tribute to Denise Allen and her passion for protecting nature

Polar bear standing on rock
Denise Allen and Mark Hayes

Denise Allen and Mark Hayes met in their 30s during a fateful ski trip to Lake Tahoe. They quickly learned that they shared a love for kayaking, scuba diving, and hiking as well as backgrounds in accounting. Denise was an avid conservationist and member of WWF’s National Council. After a valiant battle with cancer, she passed away in July 2020. In this special tribute, Mark discusses Denise’s tenacious and generous spirit and her unshakable passion for protecting nature.

How was Denise’s love for travel connected to her commitment to conservation?

Denise was devoted to learning about the world on the ground and in the water and traveled to over 30 countries on five continents. When Denise joined WWF’s National Council, she vowed to see conservation in action—and did just that. From tagging whales in Baja, Mexico, to camping overnight with grizzlies in Alaska, to hearing buffalo thunder across the Northern Great Plains, she reveled in the wonders of the natural world while understanding the threats it faced.

What was the inspiration for Denise’s commitment to the Arctic?

On a trip to see WWF’s work, we spent nine days kayaking and camping in Glacier Bay, on the coast of southeastern Alaska. That trip inspired her to make a fervent commitment to protect the precious Arctic ecosystem. Denise understood that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, jeopardizing habitats for polar bears, walruses, and other marine species, as well as threatening Arctic communities who depend on thriving ecological resources. She left a significant portion of her estate to WWF to help protect the region’s remarkable wildlife and beauty for generations to come.

What do you believe is Denise’s legacy?

Denise was committed to conservation, social justice, and helping the underprivileged. She was an optimist who always believed things would get better if we came together to create solutions. She gave generously of her time, talents, and resources to protect the places and wildlife she cared about. Ultimately, I hope Denise is remembered for all she did to make the world a better place, for people and nature.

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