Walt Pomeroy

12/12/1947 - 5/24/2022

Walt Pomeroy 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.

(Tribute by David Hess, PA Environment Digest, 5/30/2022.)