Emerging Routes to Environmental Activism: Lake Erie Sportsmen and the League of Women Voters

Terrianne Schulte

Abstract


This paper comparatively examines how the League of Women Voters and Lake Erie sportsmen emerged to awaken the public to the pollution crisis affecting the Lake Erie watershed in the mid-twentieth century. Recognizing the degradation of the smallest of the Great Lakes due to the explosion of wartime industrial development and population growth, the League and the sportsmen commenced a decades-long struggle to clean up the lake and its tributaries through direct action in urban areas throughout the Lake Erie watershed. Disgusted by a fall in the number of fish, caused by cyanide poisoning, and the effect of oil on waterfowl, the sportsmen pressed for pollution control. The League members’ approach to water resources, on the other hand, was based on a broad and academic perspective regarding water quality and quantity in response to a series of regionally severe droughts that plagued the United States in the late 1940s and mid-1950s, and led to a national debate on water shortages and supplies. Ultimately, this paper examines two distinctly different approaches to an environmental emergency in the immediate postwar era.


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