Clovis News Journal - September 28, 2015
By Brittney Cannon, STAFF WRITER

Patricia “Tish” McDaniel has traveled from Argentina to the Gulf Coast hiking, observing and studying everything she can about critters in their natural habitats, soaking up every sunrise and even having a jumpy encounter or two with coyotes.

This world traveler got her love of nature from eastern New Mexico on Jim Williamson’s ranch, when her parents took her there before her first birthday in the back of a pick-up truck, nestled in a cardboard box.

“That was before car seats,” McDaniel laughed. “We listened to prairie chickens; that was probably the first memory. My love (of nature) came from Jim Williamson and my parents.”

Her love of nature and hard work as a conservationist paid off Thursday night, when she was awarded the Hamerstrom Award by the Prairie Grouse Technical Council for her lifetime achievement and work she has done creating cohabitation between conservationists and land owners in eastern New Mexico.

According to Dr. Dave Haukos, who nominated McDaniel and shares the honor with her, the award was born in 1992 by the Prairie Grouse Tech Council “to honor people who have showed the same enthusiasm and responsibility and effectiveness or connectivity to the prairies and prairie grouse.”

“(McDaniel) has dedicated the last two decades of her life to conservation of habitats and the ecosystems of eastern New Mexico,” Haukos said. “Any conservation success or effort in eastern New Mexico can be traced back to Tish … she is a model for achieving conservation in rural and agricultural situations, especially in areas where there’s a deep distrust of federal government and endangered species.”

McDaniel followed her passion to Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) where she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry and continued her education at New Mexico State University, earning a second degree in range and wildlife science.

“It was always with the intention to work outdoors in nature,” McDaniel said. “My whole life is outdoors. I’ve hiked in many mountains and took many long backpacking trips. I see the dawn and wake up at sunrise, smelling the dew on the grass. I think dawn on the high plains is the best — and the sunsets aren’t bad, either.”

Not only her love of nature helped launch her career, though. McDaniel is also well known in the area for her delegating skills in conversations between ranchers and conservationists.

According to Weaver Ranch Manager Willard Heck, who has known McDaniel for 15 years, she has “that gift” of getting along with people on both sides of an argument.

“You learn that not everybody has that gift, and getting along with people is the key,” Heck said. “She has a real gift for dealing with landowners. She’s honest and looks out for their welfare and looks for a common ground where it still benefits landowners, and they really trust her in that way.”

Heck said he, along with other ranchers and landowners, learned how to have a productive conversation with conservationists from McDaniel, and added that there doesn’t always have to be a big stink during negotiations.

“It doesn’t have to be as big of a fight as it’s presented to be … If you really get to sit down and talk to people, everyone wants the same thing,” he said. “No one gets up in the morning wanting to destroy everything; we all want the same thing and it’s an important lesson to be learned.”

McDaniel noted that her job isn’t an easy one — a lot of times, she said, it feels like she takes “four steps forward and five steps back.”

But overcoming the “rocks in (her) road,” she said has brought her to where she is today and has helped to pave the way for other women in conservation to continue on in her shoes.

“I think probably more than anything, I’m the second woman after the creator of this award (to earn it),” McDaniel said. “I feel like, to me, I’ve paved the way for many women in this field. The pavement may not be smooth, but I’ve done a lot of work for women in the natural world to make this decision easier for them.”

Her overall goal and legacy, she said, is to continue increasing knowledge and improving communication between landowners, ranchers and conservationists, and for everyone to stay positive.

“(I’d like to see) people sit down on both sides in small meetings where you can have a conversation where people listen, ideally, and get rid of the talk that gets us nowhere, the fear and the anger, and come to some sort of respect of what the other one says and the ability to listen to both sides,” she said. “Believe that nature wins out. Believe that in yourself and in the outdoor world. Don’t give up.”

505 North Main Street | Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220 | 575.885.3700 |