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WMEAC co-founder inducted into Hall of Fame

Will Wolfe, co-founder of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, has been inducted into the Legacy Circle of the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.

/Dave Dempsey

The late Dr. Willard Wolfe, co-founder of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), has been inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame. The 4th annual ceremony took place on May 20 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Each year the Muskegon Environmental Research and Education Society (MERES) selects nominees for their hall of fame to honor people who have been stewards for the betterment of the environment.

The categories include nonprofit organizations, colleges and schools, environmental projects, business/industry and individuals. Wolfe has been added to the Legacy Circle of the hall of fame, a category that honors the memory of people who have given a substantial part of their life working on environmental issues. His wife Joan Wolfe, founder of WMEAC, was also inducted under the individual category.

Will Wolfe has been referred to as “a dentist by trade but an environmentalist by heart.” His love for trout fishing led him to taking action to protect the rivers and lakes in the community. He became the president of West Michigan Trout Unlimited and a founding member of the Pere Marquette Watershed Council

Wolfe held a crucial role in passing the Inland Lakes and Streams Act in 1972. In 1971 he spoke with George Dahl, chief of the Enforcement Division of the Department of Natural Resources, about improving the protection of lakes and streams from damming, dredging and filling. Dahl told him there was nothing the DNR could do. After a recent Inland Lakes and Streams Act had been rejected, Wolfe formed a committee to write a new act.

Members of the committee included Dr. Fred Brown, a board member and past president of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs; Buck Gotshall, president of the Pere Marquette Watershed Council; Hugh Harness, an attorney in the Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited; Henry Westerville, president of the Lakes and Streams Association; Kathy Bjerke of the Sierra Club and Charles Guenther, A DNR liaison. Frank Mainville, an outdoor writer for the Lansing Journal, was also involved.

After forming the bill, the committee requested the help of Fred Steketee, a business student, who gathered research on the problems caused by damming, dredging and filling lakes and streams. Senator Basil Brown and Martha Reynolds of the UAW also worked with the committee.

Joan Wolfe lobbied extensively for the bill, refusing amendments senators attempted to include and seeing to it herself that it was carried through on the Senate floor. The bill was successfully passed before Christmas in 1972.

John Wolfe, son of Will Wolfe, says one thing that’s inspiring about both of his parents is instead of feeling helpless about issues that concerned them, they became actively involved in creating change.

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