Our Foundation Story

It was the 1970s and rivers were catching on fire. Wisconsin’s own Fox River was practically dead. In response, national environmental leaders like Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day, and the National Environmental Policy Act was passed.

It was in this context that a handful of foresightful Wisconsinites, led by Doug La Follette and Peter Anderson, recognized the need to have an organized effort to protect Wisconsin’s cherished yet vulnerable environment. Knowing that ensuring concrete protections for our air, water, and landscapes required an active voice within the Capitol, La Follette and Anderson formed our organization under the name Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade on that first Earth Day in 1970.

Since our founding as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, we’ve been a critical leader in a number of important environmental protections. The 1970s saw the passage of the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act, the cornerstone environmental law in the state. The 1980s saw protections against Acid Rain; the 1990s, comprehensive recycling legislation, the creation of the Lower Wisconsin Scenic Riverway, and the Prove It First mining law; and in the new millennium, we were at the table to create the Great Lakes Compact, to pass the state ban on microbeads, and to enact the E-waste recycling law.

Think of any significant environmental victory in Wisconsin, and we were there, a voice and a leader for our natural resources and for the people who rely on them.

The decade La Follette predicted would be the Environmental Decade came and went, and the work to protect and preserve our state’s natural treasures continued and continues to this day. Carrying on the legacy of our work as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, Clean Wisconsin continues to be your environmental voice¬†across the state.