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Originally published September 5, 2010 at 8:40 PM | Page modified September 6, 2010 at 2:20 PM

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Attorney John Arum was known for his environmental work

John Arum, 49, died during a hike last week in North Cascades National Park. His family said he had set a goal to climb Washington's highest 100 peaks and was attempting a solo ascent of the 8,500-foot Storm King mountain when, apparently, he fell.

Seattle Times staff reporter

In 2001, Seattle environmental attorney John Arum met with a hostile group of about 100 farmers along Manastash Creek, near Ellensburg, to talk about how their diversion of water for irrigation was destroying steelhead runs.

The Washington Environmental Council, for which Mr. Arum was a longtime board member, was threatening a lawsuit.

But over the next six years, Mr. Arum worked with the farmers, Indian tribes and state agencies to resolve the dispute.

He negotiated a landmark agreement to consolidate irrigation systems, improve stream flow and remove barriers to fish passage.

"He went over on his own time, walked the streams, got to know how they used the water better than they did. The work he did was truly impressive," said Jay Manning, Gov. Chris Gregoire's chief of staff who served on the environmental-council board with Mr. Arum.

Mr. Arum, 49, died during a hike last week in North Cascades National Park. His family said he had set a goal to climb Washington's highest 100 peaks and was attempting a solo ascent of the 8,500-foot Storm King mountain when, apparently, he fell.

Mr. Arum's colleagues remembered him as a brilliant lawyer and one of the state's premier environmental and tribal advocates, who often fashioned creative solutions that met the diverse and sometimes opposing interests of the people involved.

He played a significant role in helping preserve the Loomis Forest in Eastern Washington in 1999 and represented the Makah Nation in its effort to regain the traditional right to hunt gray whales.

Mr. Arum represented Maury Island residents fighting a controversial gravel mine. Last year a judge halted the project until more environmental studies were completed.

"His death is a huge loss for the state and for conservation. He was a very important voice for the public interest," said Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

Marc Slonim, Mr. Arum's law partner at the Seattle firm of Ziontz, Chestnut, Varnell, Berley & Slonim, said Mr. Arum represented many Indian tribes and developed close personal relationships with tribal members and leaders.

He recalled Mr. Arum's work on the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed the hunting and fishing rights of the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa in Minnesota. At the same time, Washington tribes were suing in federal court to restore their own treaty rights to traditional fishing grounds. Slonim said he sat in on some of the hearings and marveled that the tribes were represented by about two dozen attorneys.

"I didn't have two dozen attorneys on the Mille Lacs case, but I had John. He did phenomenal, important work."

Mr. Arum was born in 1961 and grew up in and around New York City. His father, Bob Arum, now known as a major boxing promoter, was a Harvard-trained lawyer who worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office under the late Sen. Robert Kennedy. The first fight the elder Arum promoted featured Muhammad Ali, who became a family friend and attended Mr. Arum's bar mitzvah, said his brother Richard Arum.

Mr. Arum graduated from Reed College and the University of Washington Law School, where he was associate editor of the law review.

His brother said he loved the outdoors. He and his wife, Susan Hormann, took long kayak trips along the coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., and in Alaska.

Sunday would have been Mr. Arum and his wife's 11th wedding anniversary. Together they planned to climb Jack Mountain, a 9,000-foot peak that towers above Ross Lake in the North Cascades, one of the 17 or 18 remaining mountains on Mr. Arum's list, his brother said.

Besides his wife, Susan, of Vashon Island, Mr. Arum is survived by his mother, Barbara Arum, of Accord, N.Y.; his father, Robert, and stepmother, Lovee Arum, both of Las Vegas; his brother Richard, of New York City; his sister Lizabeth Arum, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and his stepbrother Todd DuBoeff and stepsister Dena DuBoeff, both of Las Vegas.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

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