Conservationists mourn the passing of Pat Daly, 72

‘Gentle giant’ worked behind the scenes for clean flowing waters

Pat Daly, was named Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Conservation Leader of the Year in 2017. (Kelly Bostian/Courtesy Tulsa World)

By KELLY BOSTIAN
For the CCOF

Oklahoma conservationists Thursday mourned the sudden passing of Pat Daly, 72, from acute leukemia. A transplant from coastal states, he left an indelible mark on this state’s wildlife and water quality issues over the past 15 years.

Daly was a consummate fly fisher who traveled to top fishing destinations across the country. That interest had him highly active in the local Trout Unlimited Oklahoma Chapter 420, and Tulsa Fly Fishers, a charter club of Fly Fishers International. In 2017 the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma named him Conservation Leader of the Year.

“With Pat Daly’s passing, Oklahoma and the conservation community has lost one of its most passionate, eloquent, and committed voices,” said Ron Suttles, past chairman and founder of the coalition. “I worked with Pat for years and as Conservation Chair for Trout Unlimited his grasp of issues, dogged determination, leadership, and vision, inspired and challenged the people and organizations with whom he worked. He was a friend to me, to our conservation community, to Oklahoma’s outdoors and we are diminished by his death.”

Friends on social media Thursday described the 6-foot, 2-inch angler as a “gentle giant,” a mentor, an unabashed “tree hugger,” and a gentleman angler and upland bird hunter. He was no shrinking violet when it came to a healthy debate on conservation issues, whether with a friend, government official, or politician. He was known for handing out his hand-tied flies and donating gear for newcomers to fishing.

The late fly-fishing author Sylvester Nemes called him a friend. Daly traveled to fish Montana’s Madison River with him, said his wife, Linda Daly.

“He mentions Pat in one of his books,” she said.

Daly was raised on a quarter-horse ranch in Northern California. He attended the University of California-Berkeley in the tumultuous late 1960s.

Daly told the Tulsa World in 2017 that growing up in the Sacramento Valley set his conservation ethic. He hunted ducks, pheasants, and quail and fished for steelhead trout in pure-water streams. But soon the area was known as “The Lost Coast” due to environmental damages.

Corporate agriculture and large timber operations changed the land ethic there, he said. Profit-driven corporations replaced family farms that handed down traditions and fertile lands to the next generations, he said.

“They didn’t do what I call transfer,” he told the newspaper. “The corporations came in and would transfer the costs of the cleanup to the next company or the next person to come along. They only worried about the next quarterly profit.”

In Oklahoma, he was a strong advocate for clean water and for the Arkansas River. He campaigned for minimum flow in all rivers and recently campaigned for a management plan for Zink Dam in Tulsa. He supported campaigns against increasing phosphorus levels in the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. He was particularly concerned about Oklahoma’s move toward recycling water produced in oil and natural gas operations for other uses.

Daly told the Tulsa World, “conservation is just simply conserving and maximizing the utilization of resources of all types for the long term… I like my gas furnace. I also like wind; we have a lot of wind in Oklahoma. I like solar. I like oil and gas. I like it all, but I also insist that corporations be good citizens—and that’s where it can break down sometimes.”

Daly cut his business and outdoors adventuring teeth in marketing with Eddie Bauer in Seattle. Part of his adventures had him summiting Mount St. Helens in 1975, and Mount Rainier in 1976. He later worked with Alaska cruise lines with Royal Caribbean and then Norwegian Cruise Lines out of Fort Lauderdale. Florida, where he met his wife there and they were married in March of 2000.

Daly also had a big heart for stray pets, Linda Daly said. A black German shepherd named Lady was a constant companion. Stray pets, presumably abandoned off nearby Interstate 412, often show up in the Diamond Head neighborhood, she said. After a day of yard work, as Daly sat on a backyard bench, the dog walked up out of the woods and simply put its head on his lap. They were constant companions for the next 11 years, she said.

“We bought an RV so Lady could travel with us,” Linda Daly said. “He loved to sit out on the bench overlooking the woods and she sat there with him.”

Born Dec. 26, 1948, Daly was the adopted son of the late Dennis and Eileen Daly of Grass Valley, Calif. His wife, Linda Daly, of Sand Springs; his sister, Shannon McClurg, and her husband Bob of Penryn, Calif., and his cousin, Deanna Penn of Foster, Calif, survive him.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Best Friends Animal Society or any rivers or fisheries conservation organization of their choice.

A celebration of life is set for his birth date, Dec. 26, from 1-4 p.m. at Dead Armadillo Craft Brewery, 1004 E. 4th St. in Tulsa.

Kelly Bostian is an independent journalist writing for The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to education and outreach on conservation issues facing Oklahomans. To learn more about what we do and to support Kelly’s work, see the About the CCOF page.

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