Coastal Land Trust taps long-time Audubon conservationist as new executive director

Walker Golder, who served the National Audubon Society for three-plus decades, was welcomed Monday to the Coastal Land Trust as the new executive director. (Port City Daily/Courtesy North Carolina Coastal Land Trust)

WILMINGTON – Coastal Land Trust welcomed a new executive director Monday to continue its legacy of protecting thousands of precious acres along eastern North Carolina.

Walker Golder, who served the National Audubon Society for three-plus decades, will fill the role of the outgoing director Camilla Herlevich. Herlevich remained at the organization for close to 30 years, since founding it in 1992.

“I think that really reflects a passion for it,” Golder said of both leaders’ lengthy tenures. “That was true for me in a former career, and the opportunity to get back to the coast of North Carolina, protect land on the coast of North Carolina, just, is incredibly exciting.”


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Coastal Land Trust is a Wilmington-based organization preserving imperiled islands, beaches, streams, forests, working farms and nature parks. Its properties like Airlie Gardens, Masonboro Island Coastal Reserve and Carolina Beach Lake serve as both protected lands and public preserves to visit.

On his first day on the job, Golder expressed he is eager to build off Herlevich’s accomplishments and aim toward double the acreage of the trust’s conserved tracts.

“I’m incredibly impressed with the amount of work that the land trust has accomplished in the past and has slated for the next year or so,” Golder said. “Protecting 80,000 acres of land is huge, and I am looking forward to working with the staff and board and guiding the organization to the next 80,000 acres.”

Golder’s passion for nature originates from his childhood in Wrightsville Beach, exploring the marshes, beach and water. Living in his coastal hometown, he developed an enthusiasm for the outdoors and a desire to protect it.

“Seeing the entire coast of North Carolina change over time really instilled a passion for the place, of course, but also a need to ensure that the most special of the places are protected for future generations,” Golder said.

Those interests led him to a career in biological sciences. Golder earned a bachelor’s of science in biology and a master’s degree in marine biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

He was hired out of school by the National Audubon Society to develop the Coastal Sanctuary Program, building a network of nesting habitats for colonial waterbirds. He continued serving in various capacities at the nonprofit, including launching the state office as the deputy state director and, most recently, acting as director of the Atlantic Flyway Coast Strategy.

The sanctuaries established by Golder provide refuge for 35% of North Carolina’s breeding shorebirds today.

After working in past years across the entire Atlantic coast, including in the Caribbean and South America, Golder said he’s ready to refocus his efforts on his home state. Golder will work out of the Wilmington headquarters, while collaborating with the New Bern and Elizabeth City offices.

Golder teamed up with the Coastal Land Trust before on several land protection projects while at Audubon. 

“The opportunity to return to North Carolina and work with the superb staff here at the land trust and continue that work protecting the places that are important to the North Carolina coast was just, to me, a dream come true,” he said.

Looking forward, Golder plans to set goals alongside the board of directors and staff. He is currently drafting a 100-day plan and intends to visit all land trust properties in the coming months, getting to know them through his camera lens – another passion. Golder is a nature photographer with images published in eight books and magazine covers.

“I’ve carried a camera around forever,” he said.

Golder will lead the conservation nonprofit in pursuing around 15 land acquisitions in the next year, he said.


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