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Walnut Creek Magazine

Save Mt. Diablo’s Land Conservation Director Seth Adams Negotiates Deals for Mother Nature

Jul 15, 2021 10:45AM ● By Deborah Burstyn

Taking a hike is on the day’s to-do list for Seth Adams, the land conservation director of Save Mt. Diablo. Not for fun, though. Adams is heading to the spectacular Sand Creek area near the Antioch Urban Line Limit, preserved by 79% of voters under Measure T in November 2020.

“Our coalition educated Antioch residents about the Sand Creek and Empire Mine Road area,” said Adams. “We saved the Antioch Urban Limit Line, built a strong grassroots coalition, established greater concern within the city council, and received very strong public support to help with next steps. We’re in this for the long run. The work continues. We will oppose Zeka and Richfield, defend Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and Deer Valley Regional Park, and work to ensure that more of the Sand Creek area is protected.”

In a nutshell, this is what Adams does. While most with his business acumen would be brokering deals for Wall Street, Adams negotiates for Mother Nature. His efforts have helped Contra Costa move from a county with only 12% of its land preserved for open space in 1988, to one with more than 33% preserved today. A pragmatist, Adams believes that as communities increase in population density, the amount of open space also needs to increase for balance.

Adams has helped Save Mt. Diablo protect 110,000 acres on Mt. Diablo from development; a giant step forward from the 6,788 acres protected in 1971, when the organization was founded. Yet another 70,000-acres remain vulnerable. “We are ground zero in this area for development pressure. It’s not happening in Marin County; it’s happening here. Save Mt. Diablo is committed to protecting the quality of life here. Without us, Walnut Creek would not be Walnut Creek,” said Adams. 

"We’ve protected 75% of the land we think is important around Mt. Diablo’s peaks and north of Altamont Pass, but only 24% of the entire 150-mile Diablo Range has been protected. We’re going to help accelerate that. We think it’s California’s Next Great Conservation Story."

Once considered a mere “watchdog environmental group,” Save Mt. Diablo received national accreditation as a land trust, due to the conservation efforts of Adams and his team, who work tirelessly to protect views, ecosystems, and recreational areas. “We decided to raise money to directly acquire land and turn it over to the state park system,” he said. But the park system was backlogged in maintaining the land it already owned. So Save Mt. Diablo became a land trust to manage its purchases. “Acquisition is a one-time thing but stewardship is forever.” 

Although its headquarters are in Walnut Creek, Save Mt. Diablo monitors development and restores habitat lands from I-680 on the west to the Delta on the east, and from I-580 up to the Carquinez Strait. But the organization’s relationship with Walnut Creek and its vast network of trails and open space is unique. “Walnut Creek backs up to Mt Diablo,” Adams said. “One of the communities with the closest relationship to the mountain is Walnut Creek. Everything we do ends up benefiting Walnut Creek.”

Adams, who celebrated his 33rd anniversary with Save Mt. Diablo in March, says he’s “lucky to have gotten involved at a time when Mt. Diablo was becoming one of the biggest conservation stories in the Bay Area.” Walnut Creek residents and scores of others, who have benefited from his lifework, would say we are the lucky ones. 

Rooted in changing hearts and minds to benefit the climate and the earth, Adam's story is a powerful one. Learn more about local land conservation in his recent podcast with Coffee & Change.


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