Many know Gordon Moore, the Intel co-founder, as a tech innovator who had a transformative impact on Silicon Valley. He passed away on March 24th. What you may not know is the enormous impact Moore had on land conservation across the Peninsula through his support of POST. The generosity of Moore, and his family foundation – The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation – has directly helped to preserve thousands of acres of open space through numerous transactions over many decades. These protected places today provide dozens of benefits to all of us. They are a huge part of what makes this region so special.
An early example of Moore’s conservation impact occurred back in 1994. One day, Audrey Rust, POST’s former President, toured him around the spectacular former Phleger Estate in the hope that he would help fund its conservation. Located off Highway 280, just south of the Filoli Estate, this stunning property featured redwoods, mixed evergreens and tan oak woodlands. The idea was for POST to sell a 25-acre piece of the estate with a house included to fill a critical gap in the funding needed to complete the overall transaction. This smaller property would be subject to development restrictions in the form of a conservation easement.
There was one unfortunate catch: the house was in disrepair. Addressing all the deferred maintenance would take a significant investment. In fact, it’s only water supply was a garden hose running from a spring box through a seasonal creek and up into the woods to a pump house and then to a storage tank! To make matters worse, the house stood less than 200 yards from the San Andreas Fault on a dirt road. Another complicating factor was that the terms of the larger transaction meant the house also couldn’t be inspected!
Despite these considerable obstacles, Gordon and Betty Moore shook hands with Audrey and agreed to buy the house. Their funding was what POST needed – in combination with other private donations and federal money – to complete an important transaction. In early 1995, the property became a public park when we transferred 1,252 acres to the National Park Service.
A few years later, another of the great success stories of San Francisco Bay conservation came to be, thanks to Gordon Moore.
In 1997, POST needed a $5 million loan to secure the purchase of a 1,700-acre wetland called Bair Island. Years prior, a 20,000 home development of the Island had been blocked by a citizen’s initiative, Measure O (1981), which passed by just 42 votes. In those days, POST’s bank was small and new. They needed to partner with a larger bank to pull together the $5 million bridge loan that would sustain our efforts until we could raise more funds. The larger bank required security other than the politically contentious wetlands for the loan.
Again, Audrey turned to Moore to see if he could help. Little did she know, one of his high school summer jobs was working at the cement factory at the end of Seaport in Redwood City overlooking Bair Island! This is just one of several beloved Peninsula locales that Moore had in common with POST.
Though his time at the cement factory was not his fondest work memory, he still put up some of his Intel founders stock shares as security for our loan. When the young banker arrived at Moore’s house to pick up the certificates, he pulled one out of his desk drawer. With a twinkle in his eye, Moore asked if this would be okay – it was “what he had at hand.”
Already in awe from being in Moore’s house and actually touching these prestigious Intel shares, the banker was in for a stunning surprise. When she looked at the certificate, she saw that it was worth millions more than required! That was Gordon Moore. He got a kick out of using his Intel stock, which he had no intention of selling, to help a cause he believed in.
As a result of his willingness to back POST, Moore provided the time and impetus needed to raise the $15M required to protect Bair Island in 1997. It was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service soon after.
Fast forward another five years. Gordon and Betty Moore had recently formed their Family Foundation. Moore took the lead in forming a valuable partnership, telling the David and Lucile Packard Foundation that he would grant $50 million dollars to POST if they would. The Packard Foundation agreed. Their contributions were then (and continue to be) record-breaking donations for local land conservation. Their $100 million in turn attracted another $100 million in private gifts, enabling POST to launch the $200 million Saving the Endangered Coast campaign.
This campaign helped POST to preserve thousands of acres of rolling hills, farms and coastal bluff along Highway 1 in San Mateo County. In fact, that drive today looks remarkably like it did when Moore was a boy growing up in Pescadero. Without his support, it might instead resemble the crowded bluffs of Orange County.
When you look at our beautiful green open space throughout San Mateo and parts of Santa Clara County this spring, I hope you will join me in a moment of tremendous gratitude for a generous man who loved this place so much. The legacy of Gordon Moore lives on through the support that The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation continues to provide to POST and many other causes. Gordon’s and Betty’s support of POST made the organization what we are today, and it continues to provide us the resources we need to protect amazingly biodiverse landscapes like Estrada Ranch and Lakeside Ranch. His willingness to take risks with us in the early days was an endorsement beyond just words, which has led many others to stand with POST. We are so grateful to Gordon Moore, and his family, for their ongoing and integral role in the conservation of so much of the Peninsula’s spectacular landscape.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more