An awe-inspiring hike through the redwood forests of California in 1977 convinced Harry Pollack to start anew on the West Coast after graduating from Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. Now the majestic forests have inspired Pollack to make another life-altering move at age 61, from small-firm lawyer to in-house counsel at a nonprofit that has been protecting redwood trees from deforestation and development since 1918.

Pollack joined the Berkeley-based Save the Redwoods League in June, taking on the newly created role of chief program officer and general counsel. The job requires him to cover a lot of ground. As an in-house lawyer, Pollack is tasked with navigating his colleagues through the thicket of legal issues involved in land conservation. He is also a manager of new initiatives. They include acquiring new land, integrating research on topics like climate change into the organization’s everyday stewardship responsibilities, and distributing grants to local nonprofits and schools to bring Bay Area residents into the forests.