Earth Day Roots
50 Years of Earth Day, Thanks to Wisconsin's Gaylord Nelson
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an event founded by Wisconsin's own Gaylord Nelson. Nelson served as Wisconsin's 35th Governor and became nationally known as "the Conservation Governor" for his efforts to protect natural resources and waterways, create environmental jobs, and increase Wisconsin's outdoor recreation infrastructure.
In 1962, Nelson was elected to the United States Senate. Noticing an absence of environmental consciousness at the federal level, he worked for years to push for laws that protected the environment. In spite of a growing public concern about the planet, many of Nelson's arguments were not popular with his fellow lawmakers. But in the late 1960s, Nelson started to urge for a "national day for the environment" and on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was born.
Gaylord Nelson was originally from Clear Lake, Wisconsin, just 41 miles northwest of UW-Stout. Following his time in the U.S. Senate, he continued to fight for our planet. In 1995, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work for the environment. As Wisconsinites, we are proud to call him one of our own.