Remembering our friend Doug Walker and his great conservation legacy

Immediate Past Council Chair, Doug Walker

Courtesy of King County Sheriff’s Office

Doug Walker, immediate past chair of the Wilderness Society Governing Council, was found dead on Jan. 1, apparently killed in an avalanche while hiking in Washington's Cascade Range. We mourn his loss and remember his life's work.

As The Wilderness Society mourns Doug Walker, we celebrate his tremendous life’s work and commit ourselves to carrying on his legacy of inspiring others to experience and protect the outdoors he loved.

The Seattle Times may have said it best: Doug’s footprints are all over the mountains of Washington, among his favorite places to enjoy nature, but he left an even greater impression on the worlds of philanthropy and conservation.

"The legacy of Doug Walker will always be a part of our fight for protecting America’s parks and wild heritage and he will be sorely missed." -Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams

A successful software entrepreneur, Doug was an active supporter of charitable, environmental and community organizations. In addition to serving on The Wilderness Society Governing Council from 1998 through 2015, Doug served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as on the boards of the Seattle Parks Foundation, Green Diamond Resource Company, Conservation Lands Foundation, American Alpine Club, Forterra, Civil War Trust, UW College of the Environment, William D. Ruckelshaus Center and Sierra Club Foundation.

The entire Wilderness Society family sends its heartfelt condolences to Doug’s wife, Maggie, and his daughter, Kina.

Many Wilderness Society staff and board members shared memories of Doug upon his tragic passing:

The Wilderness Society Governing Council:

David A. Churchill, Chair:

"Doug was a great inspiration.  He instilled in me the confidence to do things I had not thought possible—from coming close (well, maybe) to keeping up with him on the hiking trail, to succeeding him as Chair of this great organization he loved. I knew earlier that he was an inspiration to others also, but it has become clear to me only recently just how many, almost countless, people were touched by his good deeds. Young, not so young, urban, outdoorsy—his boundless enthusiasm for this life will be missed by us all.”

Thomas Barron:

"Doug was more than a great wilderness advocate—he was fully alive and passionate about life. Even if he left us all in the dust on whatever the hike, he did it with such authentic joy and vitality that we loved him all the more."

The Wilderness Society Staff:

Jamie Williams, President:

“Doug’s work to advance charitable causes—particularly conservation, recreation and access for all to our shared public lands – serves as testament to his commitment to making the world a better place. Doug’s passion and leadership for protecting wilderness and getting kids from all backgrounds into the outdoors is something for which many generations will be grateful. He was an inspiring leader and a great friend. The legacy of Doug Walker will always be a part of our fight for protecting America’s parks and wild heritage and he will be sorely missed. Today we are deeply saddened by this loss.”

Ame Hellman, Vice President of Philanthropy:

"I am devastated by the news about our beloved Doug Walker. He was an amazing man, philanthropist, and board chair to The Wilderness Society.  His enthusiasm for the outdoors, getting others outdoors and the protection of wilderness was intoxicating. My thoughts and prayers are with his beloved family, friends the many organizations that he loved and supported including our own TWS family. Godspeed to you Doug."

Kitty Thomas, Vice President of Communications and Marketing:

"One of the many wonderful things about Doug was how generous he was with his time. He was always willing to help when you faced a challenge or needed to think something through. And when you talked to him, it was like talking to no one else. He had so much energy that it was like plugging into a light socket—all at once he encouraged you, challenged you, and inspired you to do more, and to do it better. I came away from every conversation with Doug having learned something new, and feeling excited to tackle the work ahead. I feel very lucky to have known him, and I am grateful for the tremendous conservation legacy he leaves to us all.  He will be deeply and profoundly missed."

Alan Rowsome, Senior Director of Government Relations for Lands:

"We've lost an incredible conservation leader and friend. Doug was passionate, energetic and lived life to the fullest. He was generous to a fault and one of the most inquisitive people I've ever met. He steered The Wilderness Society board for many years and was a tireless advocate for wild places. I was lucky to hike with him on a number of occasions, and I'll never forget the trivia questions and Civil War facts he regaled me with along the way. Doug will truly be missed."

Chase Huntley, Director of Energy and Climate Program: 

"Doug was a force of nature whose sheer joy for the physical challenge and reward of climbing and hiking in wild places was infectious. He had a boundless energy for ensuring every American has the chance to experience the wonder of wilderness that touched thousands of lives. I will dearly miss his remarkable leadership and enthusiasm. With his passing, we lost a true champion for the regenerative power of the outdoors." 

Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy:

“Doug was unrivaled in his dedication to outdoor recreation and conservation. He was the driving force behind a campaign to make public lands more accessible and increase opportunities for nonprofit organizations to connect young people to nature … We know of no better way to honor Doug's memory and build upon his legacy than to recommit to this work and grow the community of stewards for America's public lands.”

Michael Carroll, Senior Director of National Partnerships:

"Long before it was considered a real issue, Doug was pushing numerous organizations, lawmakers and administration officials to understand that everyone should have access to public lands (most notably kids) and that for many Americans, especially those in urban and underserved communities, there are real barriers to getting outdoors. He challenged us to surface these issues and work hard to tear down barriers so that public lands would be accessible to all Americans. This vision and Doug’s tireless dedication to bringing the conservation community and the recreation community together around this and other shared interests has changed the shape of conservation and transformed The Wilderness Society."

Sally Miller, Senior Regional Conservation Representative, California:

"Doug loved the Eastern Sierra and it was his idea to come out to celebrate passage of the Omnibus Act of 2009, which protected more than 450,000 acres of wilderness here. He also came out frequently to climb, so my husband and I got to see him periodically, usually for a beer or dinner in between his adventures. He was a staunch supporter of our work with the horse-packers to help ensure continuing and diverse access to National Park and Forest Service wilderness lands in the beautiful Sierra Nevada. I will miss him, a lot."

Jeff Widen, Senior Regional Conservation Representative:

"I met Doug at a meeting in Durango, before we climbed  together in the desert south of Moab. We connected so well, and my family and I met Doug again, where he and I climbed some of the classic, historic routes in the North Cascades and Squamish. Doug was engaging, ever energetic, impressively fit and strong—and a wonderful partner and friend. I had hoped to tie into a rope with him again ... I wish you only the best journey my friend."

Melyssa Watson, Vice President of Conservation:

"Two of the most memorable hikes of my life were with Doug Walker. Doug had an ability to push me outside my comfort zone—but not beyond my limits—and as a result I saw and did things I would not have done but for Doug’s encouragement. Doug had the same ability to challenge me and so many others on our staff to think creatively, to push limits and try new things in the service of protecting wilderness and especially in helping others experience and appreciate the outdoors. Doug’s passion was contagious and his enthusiasm for sharing the outdoor experience with others unmatched. His strong support for and personal relationships with our staff was also unparalleled. His loss leaves a major gap for the many, many staff with whom he worked so closely, including me."

Ben Greuel, Washington State Program Director:

"Few people have had such a positive impact on our city, our state and our country as Doug Walker. I was lucky to work with and for Doug on not one, but three conservation organizations in which he served on the board of directors—a testament to his spirit of service in the causes he believed in. Yet despite our professional relationship, I am most proud to have been able to call him a friend. Of which he was a great one, loyal, honest and selfless. I’m going to miss our periodic hour long wide—ranging conversations that touched on multiple aspects of work and life immensely. As well as his nuggets of wisdom he willfully shared. Through his burning passion for the outdoors, he has helped introduce countless souls to the North Cascades and beyond, but despite his success, our mountains will be a bit lonelier without him. Miss you, Doug."

Contributions in memory of Doug Walker and his incredible legacy of conservation may be made to The Wilderness Society’s Doug Walker Memorial Fund.