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Arthur "Art" Davis

Born: Tue., Jun. 20, 1922
Died: Sun., Mar. 9, 2014

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Arthur A. Davis, Camp Hill Pennsylvania

Arthur (Art) Davis died peacefully at home on March 9, 2014 surrounded by family.

Arthur Alexander Davis was born on June 20, 1922 in New York City, the son of school teachers. From an early age Art was interested in the outdoors and outdoor recreation. As a 15 year old he worked in the Natural History Museum in New York where one of his specialties was environmental exhibits.

He entered the University of Maine in 1940, but his education was interrupted for service in WWII as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army serving in the Pacific theater. At the University of Maine, he met Lilian (Neen) Lewis, the love of his life. They were married in 1945 and remained so for 68 years until his death. After his military service, Art completed his degree at Maine and then received a master's degree at the Yale School of Forestry in 1949, after which he built an illustrious career in conservation management and policy.
Early in his career he served in the US Department of Interior, first in the Fish and Wildlife Service as an assistant wildlife refuge manager in White River Arkansas. Among his memories in this job was a threat of being shot by local residents who wanted no regulation of fishing in the White River. He then transferred to Washington DC as a Management Intern and then to the Branch of Wildlife Refuges.

From 1954-1959 Art served in the Bureau of the Budget, a part of the Executive Office of the President, where his duties centered on budget, program management and legislative proposals of the land and water resource agencies. From 1959 " 1961 he was Director, Programs and Policies Staff of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. In 1962 President Johnson appointed Art as the first Director of the Open Space Land Program in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He served until 1970 in senior positions at HUD, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for Metropolitan Development.
From 1970 " 1974 he served as Vice President for Operations at The Conservation Foundation in Washington. From 1974-1984 he worked at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, based in Pittsburgh, where he led a project that created a land-use plan for the state of Pennsylvania. He led a major multi-year planning effort to identify and conserve important habitats and scenic areas in Pennsylvania. While there he served as Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Planning Board and served on several advisory Committees.

In 1984 he was named as the first professor to hold the Goddard chair at Pennsylvania State University, where he taught forestry and environmental resources and directed a university program on environmental problem-solving. He held this position until being appointed Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources by Governor Casey in 1987. Casey stated that he chose Davis because: "He knows the problems, he knows how to find solutions which take into account different interests and perspectives, and he knows that it's time to take action to protect our land, our water and our air."

Art served as Secretary through November of 1994. Among his accomplishments while Secretary, he helped the agency navigate through bitter fights with legislators and private interests about landfills and recycling. He was a strict enforcer of hazardous waste policy and protections for wetlands and waterways, and pressed for clean-up and accountability for the 1990 oil spill on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. Under his leadership the DER successfully opposed allowing private interests to clear cut part of the Allegheny National Forest. One of his proudest accomplishments was establishing Pennsylvania's mandatory recycling program that is among the most progressive in the nation. He fought for funding for State Parks, remarking there was never enough. DER, under Art's leadership, was a particularly tough enforcer of illegal pillar removal in old coal mines, and he worked to ensure surface mining clean-up and reclamation. DER also enforced the posting of bonds by coal companies to ensure reclamation. On the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990, he made his way to work by canoeing across the Susquehanna River. This river "commute" made front page news in several newspapers. In accepting Art's resignation, Governor Casey wrote in part: "Your leadership has been of a unique kind: firm but even-tempered in the face of incredible provocation, a willingness to compromise without sacrificing principle, and a dogged persistence until the job was done."

Art loved birding and was a passionate and skilled canoeist. He, Neen, and other family members made numerous wilderness trips down wild rivers including the Allagash in Maine, the Churchill, Missinaibi and Moose in northern Ontario, the Noatak River above Alaska's Arctic Circle, the Nehani in British Columbia, and the Upper Missouri. They also enjoyed trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Wilderness. After retiring, he and Neen undertook extensive road trips with their camper, exploring the American West, Canada and Alaska.
Art was known for his wit and witticisms and wry sense of humor. Colleagues at the DER compiled a book of his sayings. Favorites include: "We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it", "It's like trying to nail jello to the wall", and "You've got to use some judgment as to how many holes you can have in cheese and still have cheese."
Art proudly described himself as a liberal Democrat and was dismayed at why such a political philosophy is viewed unfavorably in these times. He believed that the role of government is to help the disenfranchised, provide opportunity for people and support sound environmental and conservation policy.

He also believed that the story of conservation in Pennsylvania has to be shared with the public. He humbly viewed his role in history as providing some leadership in his limited time in influencing state policy.

Art was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was preceded in death by a daughter Susan McDougall, a son Thomas, and a brother Richard. He is survived by his wife Neen Davis; daughter Nancy Rizor, son-in-law Gene Rizor, and grandson Alex Rizor of Silver Spring, Maryland; son Don Davis of New York City; son Bill Davis, daughter-in-law Jane Elder, and grandson Colin Davis of Madison, Wisconsin; granddaughter Amanda McDougall, of Charleston, South Carolina; brother E. Donald Davis and sister-in-law Mary Davis of New York City; and niece, Linda Davis and partner Katherine Klebenow of Camarillo, California.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed Association, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future or the conservation organization of your choice. As Art requested, there will be no visitation or funeral, but a celebration of Art's life will be held later this spring.
Arrangements by Auer Cremation Services of Pennsylvania, Inc.

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Jeff and Joan McPartland

Art was a good friend and neighbor and we shared a love of nature and the wildlife around our homes on the Conodoguinet Creek in Hampden Township. We always enjoyed talking to Art and Neen about their latest adventure exploring areas of our beautiful country and which Neen wrote about in treasured booklets. Art contributed greatly to preserving our environment and our lives are enriched because of his efforts to preserve our PA state parks and game lands and cleanup out rivers and streams.

Roger Fickes

Neen-- I am saddened to hear of Art's death. He gave me a chance many years ago to lead the Bureau of State Parks which turned out to be the highlite of my professional career. I think often of canoeing with you and Art especially Pine Creek.
All my best wishes to you.
Director of State Parks, Retired


Peter Brown

Neen, I'm sorry to hear of Art's passing. We are indebted to you and him for introducing us to canoeing on the West Branch of the Susquahanna. We did this for at least a dozen years, until the kids got too old to go anymore. We loved it and I hope to be able to take some grandchildren on this river. Be well, you are in our thoughts. Peter and Steffi



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