Reprinted from the October 2017 issue of Claremont Living Magazine, with permission.
Tim Wallace considers himself a “Yes man”—not a person that caves into other people's demands, but the kind that says, “Yes” to life.
Tim just celebrated 15 years (on and off—mostly on) as president of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, which works to make the neighborhood more fire-safe and a more enjoyable place to live. The organization's goals are wildfire risk reduction, trail development, natural landscape restoration, and educational tours of the canyon led by experts. “Working with volunteers, we have helped make the canyon more fire-safe, more natural, and more accessible by trails.”
Tim has been involved with natural resources all his life: first as rancher and logger, then later in academics. He has been at UC Berkeley since 1963. "I've worked at the White House on agricultural matters and was Director of California's Department of Food and Agriculture. I've done consulting abroad in Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Far East, and New Zealand and Australia." He has a Ph.D. from Purdue in agricultural economics. A specialty of his is facilitating group conflicts about land/water use. "I like to get out and work on real-world problems.” One of his proudest achievements was going into ranching and logging straight from graduating from Harvard at age 20. I was the only person in my class that, upon graduation, went into any sort of agriculture.
He was a natural for helping launch the Claremont Canyon Conservancy with Bill McClung and a small grant from our neighborhood's own Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association. "We were a group of interested families after the fire, some of whom had lost their homes, who didn't want it to happen again. And after ten years no organization was taking steps to stop another similar fire.” They realized the almost unmanaged 500 acres in the Claremont Canyon on the border of the neighborhood was a huge fire hazard. They studied it, asked questions, and asked others to come together to form the nonprofit Claremont Canyon Conservancy, “We didn't want to own land. We just wanted the owners to do a better job of managing theirs by taking out pine and invasive eucalyptus and letting the native oaks and bays see light again. That's been our focus.” The owners of most of the Claremont Canyon land are East Bay Regional Parks and UC Berkeley.
Tim has always been an outdoorsman. He grew up on the north shore of Chicago, and at the tender age of ten, answered an ad for a summer job on a dairy farm in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, an hour and a half away from home. His parents let him go. “My parents were the most wonderful people in the world. They gave me confidence. They let me do almost anything, as long as I performed!”
At the age of 18, he and two friends paddled two canoes down the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. "I was always fascinated by Huck Finn. My fifth-grade teacher sent me a card on which she'd drawn some fellows paddling down a river and wrote, 'You'll do the same someday. And we did!”
During his career, Tim spent a year in New Zealand and six months each in Australia and London. While on a job in 1965 for Stanford Research Institute, he flew over large herds of elephants in Kenya that he said “was just like flying over a herd of dairy cows in Wisconsin. And now most of those elephant herds are gone. It's so sad.”
He and his wife, Marye Jayne, still travel extensively. “I married the best sport in the world. She joined me in helping bring a 41-foot ketch from Hong Kong to San Francisco—took six months, We almost immediately hit a gale that lasted for nine days! We saw agriculture in Japan for three months in ways you could never buy—staying with a farm family who had been farming on that spot for over 150 years. It was wonderful to stay right with the family versus a hotel. We then sailed across through the Aleutians, in the Bering Sea, and on to San Francisco.”
Tim has been to every continent. “My favorite place is always the last place I've been. We love to travel, but we also love to come home. Our neighbors are the best. We have a four-bridge view, paths leading to other parts of the neighborhood, there is always something to do in Berkeley and the weather is great. There's really no place we'd rather be. I've been so lucky in life,” he says. Tim has two living children, two grandchildren, and a great grandchild on the way.
His words of advice for other would-be change-makers, "Focus on what you want to be done. Find others who feel the same way. Form a group, make it happen. And be sure to say yes. You have so much fun when you say yes. You get to know people you wouldn't have known otherwise and go places unimaginable!”