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The Modern Environmental Movement

Wisconsin has played a major and highly visible part in the development of environmental protection in the twentieth century, including a key role in forming the national organizations of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society and in creating Earth Day in 1970. Although the first protests against pollution, first efforts to conserve natural resources, and first campaigns to save forests all occurred in the late 19th century, the modern environmental movement that emerged after 1950 had different social roots and objectives than the conservation movement that preceded it.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the conservation movement... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: The state of Wisconsin's environment, 1934.  The state of Wisconsin's environment, 1934.
Link to article: The U.S. Congress recognizes Earth Day, in 1975.  The U.S. Congress recognizes Earth Day, in 1975.
Link to article: Gov. Nelson tries to save unspoiled Wisconsin lands in 1961.  Gov. Nelson tries to save unspoiled Wisconsin lands in 1961.
Link to article: An overview of Earth Day, 1970  An overview of Earth Day, 1970
Link to article: Gaylord Nelson seeks to bring the environment into the classroom, 1969  Gaylord Nelson seeks to bring the environment into the classroom, 1969
Link to artifacts: A "Blitz Fog" pesticide dispenser, 1965  A "Blitz Fog" pesticide dispenser, 1965
Link to book: A guide to teaching conservation in 1949  A guide to teaching conservation in 1949
Link to book: John Nolen drafts a plan for a state park system in 1909  John Nolen drafts a plan for a state park system in 1909
Link to book: State parks and protected lands expand in the 1960s.  State parks and protected lands expand in the 1960s.
Link to images: Photographs of Gaylord Nelson  Photographs of Gaylord Nelson
Link to images: Smokey Bear visits Milwaukee in 1954  Smokey Bear visits Milwaukee in 1954
Link to manuscript: Gaylord Nelson proposes an environmental agenda to Congress, 1970  Gaylord Nelson proposes an environmental agenda to Congress, 1970
Link to manuscript: Selections from Gaylord Nelson's Earth Day files, 1970  Selections from Gaylord Nelson's Earth Day files, 1970
Link to manuscript: Gaylord Nelson's early environmental speeches, 1962-1971  Gaylord Nelson's early environmental speeches, 1962-1971

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to article: Aldo Leopold analyzes a 19th-century hunter's logbook.  Aldo Leopold analyzes a 19th-century hunter's logbook.
Link to article: Gaylord Nelson recalls Earth Day 1970, ten years later.  Gaylord Nelson recalls Earth Day 1970, ten years later.
Link to article: The politics behind Earth Day, 1969-1974.  The politics behind Earth Day, 1969-1974.
Link to article: Aldo Leopold evaluates compulsory conservation education, 1937  Aldo Leopold evaluates compulsory conservation education, 1937
Link to book: Wisconsin Blue Books  Wisconsin Blue Books
Link to collections: Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day  Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day
Link to collections: The life and writings of wilderness advocate Sigurd F. Olson  The life and writings of wilderness advocate Sigurd F. Olson
Link to manuscript: Selections from the manuscripts of Aldo Leopold, 1903-1948  Selections from the manuscripts of Aldo Leopold, 1903-1948

Related Links

Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights
A scholar looks at anti-pollution efforts in northeast Wisconsin, 1927-1949
A historian looks at 100 years of Wisconsin forestry
A history of Wisconsin's State Parks
Learn more about the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute
Read an essay about the development of Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic

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