Joan Luedders Wolfe

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Joan Luedders Wolfe (May 2, 1929 – January 23, 2021) was an environmental activist,[1] having founded the West Michigan Environmental Action Council in 1968[2] and coordinated the drafting and passage of the landmark Michigan Environmental Protection Act of 1970.[3] At Joan's request, the law was written by University of Michigan law professor Joseph Sax.[4] It became the model for similar statutes in a dozen other states, and the basis for federal and international environmental law.[5] Both she and her husband, Willard E. Wolfe (March 8, 1926 - February 16, 2011), DDS, were also key strategists in writing and lobbying for passage of Michigan's Inland Lakes and Streams Act of 1972.

History and career[edit]

She was appointed in 1973 by Gov. William Milliken to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, and eventually became chair. She was also a member of the first Natural Resources Trust Fund Board, the Governor's Advisory Committee on Electric Energy Alternatives, and the board of the National Audubon Society.

In 1996, Wolfe was one of eight honorees of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame,[6] and holds an honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Western Michigan University.[7] In April 2014 she was inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.[8][9]

Wolfe is author of the book Making Things Happen: How to be an Effective Volunteer. Based on her experience in the environmental movement, Wolfe provides an assessment of volunteerism and outlines the basic skills that volunteers need to make a stronger impact. The book was published by Island Press in 1991.

She also wrote an account of the passage of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act of 1970 and the Inland Lakes and Streams Act of 1972 that can prove useful to activists seeking to enact legislation today.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Joan Wolfe grew up in Highland Park, Detroit, Michigan. She attended Hollins College in Virginia for two years, and then transferred to University of Michigan, where she earned an undergraduate degree in economics. She married Will Wolfe in 1953, and they raised their sons Peter and John in Belmont, Michigan. Joan was an expert birder, with a special fondness for spring warblers. Her younger son Peter was killed in 1984 while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala.[11] After Will retired, they lived in Frankfort, Michigan.


  1. ^ Environmental Activists, Eds. John Mongillo and Bibi Booth (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2001), 306-308.
  2. ^ "West Michigan Environmental Action Council: 50 years of environmental action".
  3. ^ "Ch. 14 Michigan Environmental Protection Act - Environmental Law Section".
  4. ^ Douglas Martin, "Joseph Sax, Who Pioneered Environmental Law, Dies at 78" (obituary), New York Times, March 10, 2014.
  5. ^ "Boalt Mourns Loss of Joseph Sax and Henry Ramsey Jr. '63 eNews, Berkeley Law - Boalt Hall, University of California, April 2014".
  6. ^ "Joan Luedders Wolfe, Michigan Women Forward Hall of Fame Timeline".
  7. ^ "West Michigan University Honorary Degree Recipients" (PDF).
  8. ^ Hausman, John S. (April 10, 2014). "Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame honorees being inducted Thursday". Retrieved October 18, 2015.
  9. ^ "Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council: Honoring Joan Wolfe on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day".
  10. ^ "A History of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act of 1970 and the Inland Lakes and Streams Act 346 of 1972" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers Memorial Project: Peter Wolfe".

External links[edit]

  • Dave Dempsey, 2001. Ruin and Recovery, Michigan's Rise as a Conservation Leader. University of Michigan Press. Ruin and Recovery
  • Bio at Michigan Women's Hall of Fame: Joan Luedders Wolfe: Michigan Women's Hall of Fame -
  • Joan L Wolfe, 1999. A History of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act of 1970 and the Inland Lakes and Streams Act 346 of 1972.[1]
  • Joan L Wolfe, author.[2]