Current and former DNR officials and others from the hunting and fishing community are paying tribute to Dick Mercier, a longtime conservation leader and member of the Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame who died on Sunday.
"Dick was a true champion for outdoor enthusiasts and the cause of conservation," said Rob Carter, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "His tireless efforts, especially in the legislative arena, not only benefit today's hunters and anglers but will do so for generations to come."
John Goss, former DNR director and former executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, said: "Dick Mercier put his time and talents into his passion for the outdoors serving as an unpaid advocate and the force behind the Indiana Sportsmen's Roundtable as the most consistent and effective voice for Hoosier sporting groups at the Statehouse for many years."
Mercier, 85, is best known in conservation circles for helping incorporate the Indiana Sportsmen's Roundtable in 1993. As Roundtable president for 16 years, he promoted legislation favorable to sportsmen and women and was instrumental in passage of the Landowner Liability Bill and the Senior Fishing License. The former opened the door for hunters, anglers and trappers to access private land while lifting the threat of liability to the landowner in the event of an accident. The latter established a low-cost license that helps the DNR capture federal excise tax dollars that were being lost.
He also worked to advance hunter education and apprentice licenses to get more youth outdoors, and was a strong advocate for the expansion and funding of venison donation programs to food banks.
"Dick was an outdoorsman, an ally of other outdoorsmen and women, and an honored friend of the DNR," said Mark Reiter, DNR Fish & Wildlife division director.
In 1995, Mercier accepted the DNR's Conservation Organization of the Year award on behalf of the Indiana Sportsmen's Roundtable. He was named Conservationist of the Year by the Indiana Wildlife Federation in 1998 and by the DNR in 2002.
In 2004, the Indiana Bowhunters Association created the Dick Mercier Conservationist of the Year award, presented annually to a deserving individual.
"He was kind of a unique blend of visionary and pragmatic," said Gene Hopkins, an IBA member and Mercier's successor with the Roundtable. "That’s what I liked about him.
"It was something rare to have someone who could see the future and put the present into clarity as well as he did. He's one of the guys I consider a mentor, a true mentor. Thank God he was there. Thank God he had the time and commitment to do what he did. He's going to be missed."
Doug Allman, who worked with Mercier on the Roundtable, said: "I admired Dick for seeing the big picture in a lot of things … Even though he didn't always agree with the DNR, he still put that aside and worked for funding and legislative issues that helped the DNR and helped sportsmen. He saw the connection. You don't see that very often today. People get so locked in on a 'you're either for me or against me' mentality. Dick rose above that."
One of Mercier's proudest moments came when he was inducted to the Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame in 2010.
"We have lost one of Indiana's giants of conservation," said Bourke Patton, executive director of the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation and chairman of the Conservation Hall of Fame Committee. "Dick worked tirelessly to promote hunting and make it safer in Indiana. His significant contributions made him a deserving selection to our Hall of Fame."
An avid hunter and angler, Mercier raised and trained champion hunting dogs.
"He loved his bird dogs," said Jack Corpuz of the Central Indiana chapter of Pheasants Forever. "He just got a new puppy about four years ago, so clear up to the end he was still training bird dogs. If you go back far enough in the archives, you'll probably find a hunting regulations book with him on the front behind a bird dog."
Mercier was a lifelong resident of Indianapolis and a 1943 graduate of Shortridge High School. He attended Texas A&M and Purdue. After graduating from the U.S. Army Air Corps School of Aerial Navigation, he served in World War II as an instructor for Air Corps navigation cadets.
He is survived by his wife Mary Em (Mamie), daughter Mary Jane Van Hoesen, Lummi Island, Wash.; sons Richard M. of New Albany and David G. of Indianapolis; three grandchildren and a great grandchild; and a sister, Marilyn Wetzler, Boca Raton, Fla.