Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

April 24, 2014

Benzie woman inducted into Environmental Hall of Fame

TRAVERSE CITY — A Frankfort woman who's spent much of her life fighting for and protecting Michigan’s environment earned a top honor for her efforts.

The Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame welcomed new inductee Joan Wolfe, 84, this month, in part for her role in getting the Michigan Environmental Protection Act accepted as law in 1970. The law paved the way for Michigan residents to take an active role in efforts to protect land, air and water here.

“It gave the citizens the right to go to court against pollution and impairment,” Wolfe said. “It was an accomplishment.”

Wolfe and her husband, Willard, promised each other upon marriage they would commit personal time to their preferred causes. Joan Wolfe said her husband worked full-time as a dentist and was involved in Trout Unlimited, while she founded the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

The latter group joined three other organizations to successfully take the federal government to court over the misuse of pesticides in Michigan.

Wolfe later asked a Michigan law school professor to draw up what would become the state’s Environmental Protection Act, which allowed individual citizens to file lawsuits to protect the environment. Wolfe helped champion the legislation alongside former Gov. William Milliken and the League of Women Voters.

“We were able to convince people in all kinds of organizations to support it,” Wolfe said. “Virtually every company in the state was against it. They thought it would put them out of business, which it didn't. Gov. Milliken ended up being a very strong supporter of it. He showed a lot of courage with such opposition.”

That legislation was hailed as a landmark law across the nation. Wolfe was inducted into the state Environmental Hall of Fame during an April 10 ceremony in Grand Rapids.

“I’m honored,” Wolfe said. “I cherish it.”



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