Monday, May 30, 2022

In Memoriam: Walt Pomeroy, Environmental, Wildlife & Wilderness Advocate

Walt Pomeroy, 74, of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County passed away peacefully and painlessly on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at UPMC Shadyside in Pittsburgh, PA. 

In his final moments, he was surrounded by Lin, his wife of 43 years, and his two sons, Brian (his wife Robin) and Brent (his wife Leslie), and their families. 

Born December 12, 1947, he is also survived by his two younger sisters Mary and Annie, and five grandchildren.

Walt was involved in nonprofit environmental organizations both in his professional and personal life. His love for the environment started young while going camping with his family and in Boy Scouts while growing up. 

While attending Albion College in Michigan, he helped organize the first Earth Day in 1970 and appeared on a CBS-TV prime-time special hosted by Walter Cronkite that was called Earth Day:  A Question of Survival.

An excerpt from a Blog Post By Dave Dempsey, author of the book Michigan’s Rise As A Conservation Leader captures that experience--

In contrast to protests on other campuses that Cronkite called sometimes “frivolous,” the Albion activities Pomeroy organized included the cleanup of a vacant lot to create a small urban park.

Albion called itself “Manufacturing City U.S.A.,” CBS reported, and not all its foundries had installed air pollution control equipment. But Pomeroy told reporter Hughes Rudd that he had arranged meetings with the local polluters to promote dialogue.  

“We were afraid,” he said, “that if we picketed the factories, it would actually turn the community against us.” 

The special showed Pomeroy’s fellow students jumping up and down on the non-aluminum cans they’d collected in the cleanup, making them easier to return to the manufacturer with a message that it should switch to recyclable materials.

Click Here to watch the Albion segment of the CBS program and Walt’s interview.

Student concern and action did not stop on Earth Day. Walt Pomeroy of Albion College contacted activists on other campuses who agreed the next logical step was the formation of a student lobby for the environment.  

Described as “lobbyists in blue jeans” by one newspaper, the new Michigan Student Environmental Confederation received a surprisingly warm welcome from some in the Capitol.

“Soon we made friends in the legislature on both sides of the aisle,” said Pomeroy in 1999. “We learned a day at a time. And since we were in the Capitol almost every day, our network of friends and supporters expanded from just student groups to a diversity of community, environmental and sportsmen groups. 

“Legislative priorities turned into victories…We started an environmental organization with a good cause, not much financial support and worked with the sportsmen and other environmental groups,” said Pomeroy.  “We created the path – the opportunity – for others to also organize environmental groups and hire staff. None had existed solely to focus on state environmental legislative policies prior to the creation of MSEC. Many followed and are now part of the accepted political landscape in Lansing and throughout Michigan.” [End of excerpt.]

With that involvement, he began his lifelong journey to advocate for environmental issues. 

Shortly after graduating, he worked for the Northern Environmental Council in Wisconsin, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute also in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Basin Commission in Michigan.

Walt has been a wilderness advocate for more than four decades. He helped establish Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area in Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

He worked with the late senators Hubert Humphrey and Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, U.S. Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona and Pennsylvania’s Howard Zahniser during passage of the federal Wilderness Act.

  After moving to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania in the early 1980s, he joined the Mid-Atlantic Division of the National Audubon Society and served as a regional vice president for 17 years.

Finally, before retiring he was the first executive director of Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers from 1998-2004.

  During retirement he continued his lifelong journey of environmental work while participating on multiple boards of directors of environmental organizations up until his death.

He was a member of the boards of Audubon-Pennsylvania, the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Fund, Listening Point Foundation, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Friends of Hog Island and the Pennsylvania League of Conservation Voters Education League, and he served on the policy committee for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Walt’s Scouting career includes service as an Assistant Scoutmaster and committee member, merit badge counselor and member of the district advancement committee.  He coached 175 scouts to their Eagle rank.

He has also served as a leader at World Jamborees in Chile and Thailand, and he received the District Award of Merit in 2004 and the Silver Beaver Award in 2016.

  In early 2020 he was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments before undergoing Car-T immunotherapy. He was finally considered cancer free in September 2021 and celebrated this achievement. 

He also dealt with a totally blocked colon and kidney failure. His body was immunocompromised and fought hard to continue to keep the cancer away as well as any other diseases. 

His body finally gave up the fight (with lungs collapsed and oxygen loss) two years after his cancer diagnosis. 

His love for the environment and the fight that he started will continue by all those he inspired along the way.

  Funeral services will be held on July 16 at Silver Spring Presbyterian Church, in Mechanicsburg, PA with a visitation at 9:30 a.m. and memorial service at 11:00 a.m..

  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to: Silver Spring Presbyterian Church, 444 Silver Spring Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050; Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, PO Box 1574, Bayfield WI 54814; Friends of Hog Island, PO Box 242, Bremen, ME 04551.

(Thank you to Brian Pomeroy for helping to put together this remembrance.)

Remembering Walt Pomeroy

Kirk Johnson, Executive Director, Friends Of Allegheny Wilderness-- “I met Walt Pomeroy twenty years ago when we were introduced by Doug Scott, a well-connected wilderness historian and lobbyist who went way back with Walt. We all went out to dinner together in Harrisburg to talk shop.

“Doug had figured out we were both Albion College alums (Albion, Michigan) so wanted to get us together as he knew Walt would be a helpful and experienced sounding board for our wilderness campaign. 

“I had then just established Friends of Allegheny Wilderness — a nonprofit organization advocating wilderness preservation in the Allegheny National Forest.

“Walt always had a lot of good advice for me, drawing on his decades of experience in environmental advocacy. 

“He was closely involved with Audubon Pennsylvania, so invited me to stay over at his home outside of Harrisburg when I was down in his area giving presentations about wilderness preservation to local Audubon groups.

“That Walt had such an important role in organizing the first Earth Day events at Albion was always an inspiration to me. Very heady stuff. He will be missed.”

John Lake, Agronomist, Environmentalist - "The news of Walt Pomeroy’s passing hit me like a bolt of lightning. Walt will always be a giant of integrity and the true beauty of a life well lived in service to all who were blessed to have known him, and those who benefited from his good works.  He was indeed blessed too by his wonderful wife and sons.  He was, and remains, an inspiration to Scouts and Scouters, as well as to all who seek to serve others, and all life, in this life.  May God hold you eternally."

Susan Parry, NRCS State Grassland Conservationist-- “At an early point in my environmental career, Walt was both a mentor and a friend. ‘When I met him in the advent of Growing Greener (GG), he gave me the opportunity to join him at POWR to make a difference for new and existing grassroots watershed groups. 

“It was an exciting time, and Walt helped to both create and foster a climate of change and state-led support of the GG movement. 

“He was a champion for the natural world in all its forms, from wildlife to land to water. 

“Walt led the way to success for the many groups POWR assisted through both the DCNR River Sojourn program and the ever-growing state watershed conferences that brought us all together annually to discuss both practical on-the-ground watershed protection and policy advocacy. 

“It was a meaningful experience for my life and career knowing someone like Walt that truly cared and made a lasting impact for Pennsylvania’s environmental community. 

“I will always treasure his knowledge and wisdom imparted on my life.” Susan Parry, former POWR Watershed Coordinator.”

John Dawes, Executive Director, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds-- “Walt was consistent in his life and his donations to preserve the Natural World. I traveled with him to “the Shack,” weekend home of Aldo Leopold and Walt introduced me to his daughter. A truly memorable event in my life experience.”

Marci Mowrey, President, PA Parks & Forests Foundation-- “I first met Walt when he served as Regional Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the National Audubon Society. 

“I was a graduate student, transitioning from education to conservation, attending a local conference. I later went on to work for Walt, whose passion for conservation mentored many fellow conservationists.

“When I think of Walt, his commitment to the environment-- be it protecting it or enjoying time outdoors-- comes to mind first. These memories are quickly followed by his love of family, his quest for knowledge, and his love of people. 

“Then I typically smile, as I recall Walt's sense of humor and readiness to engage in a practical joke. (I recall a food fight at a conference, a pair of mannequin legs that made some rounds, and a car on cinder blocks, to name a few pranks.) 

“It was these traits--his sense of humor, intelligence, and commitment to the cause-- that made him an effective conservation leader at Audubon, at POWR, and (after retirement) on the boards on which he served. 

“His legacy remains in the people he mentored, in the laughter he shared, and in the conservation he empowered. It was a life well lived.”

Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources-- “Walt was a friend and a mentor for me and was the first environmental professional I observed in action. 

“He deeply understood and practiced grassroots engagement. He drove around the six-state Audubon Mid-Atlantic region to meet with Audubon chapters and their statewide councils, and took time to reach out on the phone with the volunteer leaders.

“He was energetic, positive, humorous and garnered engagement and commitment from Audubon volunteers and later, watershed organizations. 

“Over the years, I learned a lot from Walt, but the main thing is that environmental volunteerism is a choice people make and besides understanding the issues and choosing to get active, volunteers need to be engaged and also have some fun!!”

David Hess, former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection-- “After the Growing Greener Program was passed, we asked Walt to create something entirely new from the ground up-- an organization to help build the capacity of local watershed groups to take on restoration projects, share techniques and methods and educate the public about how they can get involved.

“His life experience made him perfect for the role and the PA Organization of Watersheds and Rivers and the creative staff he built was the tool.

“His energy, initiative, enthusiasm and many partners helped expand local watershed restoration efforts across the state.  This is just one of his many legacies in Pennsylvania.

“Thank you Walt!”

Add Your Remembrances

If you have a remembrance of Walt Pomeroy you would like to share, send it to

[Posted: May 31, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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