As a child growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Walter T. Moore ‘92 delighted in the beauty and freedom of nature by running through the fields and forests, like little boys do. His mother was a commissioner of parks, so he understood the invaluableness of the environment from an early age. “I always grew up knowing the importance of parks and open space for a healthy and full life,” Moore said.
Four decades later, Moore’s passion for nature has continued to play a significant role in his life and has even informed his career choices. Moore now helps safeguard the land as the president of Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a non-profit organization that protects the diverse acreage and wildlife of the San Francisco Peninsula. Through private donations as well as support from federal and state agencies, POST purchases vulnerable land that might have otherwise been slated for development.
Moore began volunteering for POST shortly after graduating from UC Hastings, while he worked as an associate for a law firm in Palo Alto. When the organization had an opening for a general counsel, Moore jumped at the chance to pursue his passion in land conservation. “I don’t think I realized how much I wanted to do it until I got to a point in my legal career that my passion was not in the billable hour,” he explained. “I needed something that I believed in.” After serving as general counsel, then vice president and later executive vice president, Moore took the helm of POST in 2011.
Throughout his tenure, Moore has been instrumental in protecting 75,000 acres of land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. He also recently headed the Heart of the Redwoods Campaign, which raised $50 million and has protected 10,000 acres of redwood forest to date. POST will continue to work to protect another 10,000 acres in accordance with the campaign goals. In addition, his organization helped to pass open space ballot measures for Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, which funded both organizations so they can continue to preserve open space while preparing and maintaining them for recreational use.
Mike Williams, the Real Property Manager at the District, remembered meeting Moore 20 years ago when they were both new to their respective agencies and the field of conservation. Moore’s keenness and tenacity struck him. They continued to collaborate together for 15 years on property purchases, grant applications and projects — all while they forged a friendship that grew as strong as the roots of the redwoods that they helped protect.
“Witnessing Walter’s growth and contribution to regional open space conservation over the last 20 years has been impressive,” Williams mused. “Walter challenges himself, his staff and partners that work with him. Simply put, he leads by example,” he added.
At a time when California’s historic drought and the debate around water usage tends to pit conservationists against farmers, Moore has once again demonstrated his progressive sense of leadership through a farmland initiative that will safeguard agricultural land. The farmland initiative, which will be launched early next year aims triple the amount of agricultural land that is permanently protected on the San Francisco Peninsula that is among the most expensive farmland in the world. “We have worked with local farmers closely for years now. They are remarkable stewards. Now that we have fewer resources to take care of the land, it’s important that we work with the farmers,” Moore said.
It’s Moore’s resourcefulness and ability to spot issues that make him such a successful conservationist— skills that he said he honed while at UC Hastings. He also credited his experience as a research editor at The Back Forty— a land conservation publication edited by Professor Bill Hutton—as being instrumental to his career trajectory. Moore said that contributing to the newspaper for nearly two years helped him realize his commitment to conservation. “To have someone with the stature of Bill Hutton as an instructor was an incredible experience,” Moore added.
The two have kept in touch over the years and Hutton even organized a field trip for some of his students to POST, where Moore showed them some of the potential projects for land acquisitions. Looking back at the achievements of his former student, Hutton expressed that he wasn’t surprised by Moore’s fruitful career. “I expect that he’s going to go on to do even greater things than what is currently evident,” Hutton added.
For now, Moore’s goal is simple: to continue safeguarding the open spaces that contribute to the fabric of the community, the local environment and the biodiversity of the region. And during his spare time, he regularly hikes with his daughters and wife on lands that POST helped to protect.
One of his favorite hiking routes is the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve in Portola Valley, which was POST’s first land protection project. “It’s one of my favorite places to go not only because it’s challenging, but because of the beautiful vistas that showcase the valley, the city and the coast. It represents all that we’re trying to do to maintain spectacular open spaces for people and wildlife to enjoy,” Moore said.