Louise C. Dunlap’s career spanned six decades as a passionate environmentalist renowned for her focus on energy development, coal mining practices and their effects on the environment.
Dunlap spent a lifetime advocating for the hard-hit communities affected by the harmful practices of the coal mining industry. Working to secure legislation from 1971 to 1977, her steadfast efforts led to the enactment of the Surface Mine Control & Reclamation Act of 1977, SMCRA. Colleagues said that she led one of most effective campaigns in the history of the U.S. environmental movement: the seven-year national citizens' effort to enact federal legislation requiring the coal industry to protect valuable farmlands, streams and wetlands and to reclaim all surface mined lands. At the bill signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Carter praised Dunlap as "persistent in the face of adversity and disappointment," the Associated Press reported at the time.
During that same period, she co-founded and became President of the Environmental Policy Institute and the Environmental Policy Center in 1972, and which under her leadership, grew into the largest public-interest environmental lobbying organization in Washington. She was the first woman to become chief executive of a major U.S. national environmental organization.
In 1976, she married fellow environmentalist Joe Browder, known for his work to protect the Florida Everglades. Thereafter, she and Browder founded Dunlap & Browder, Inc., an environmental consulting firm with an international clientele.
Over the course of her career, Dunlap would serve on the boards of the League of Conservation Voters, the Clean Water Fund, Scenic America, the Environmental Policy Institute and the National Clean Air Coalition, while holding posts with the National Parks Conservation Association and Friends of the Earth, where she focused on legislative issues including energy efficiency and climate.
Most recently, Dunlap was working on the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) statute’s next reauthorization in the weeks before her death. She also has been a central figure in the Alternative Fuels element of the Clean Air Act reauthorization.
Environmentalists who knew Dunlap have suggested that Congress pay tribute to Dunlap by renaming the AML reauthorization in her honor. The Interior Department highlighted Dunlap's work in 2016, when the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement awarded her the Environment, Community, Humanity, Ownership Award. Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) praised Dunlap as "an inspiring force."
Dunlap graduated from Duke University in 1968. A devout Duke alumna, Dunlap served as a Member of the Advisory Board of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment as well as on the board of The University Council of Women’s Studies.
Dunlap was recently the recipient of The ECHO award presented by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for her contributions in the field.
This is the first time that PennFuture has given out a Posthumous Women in Conservation Lifetime Achievement Award.
Congratulations to Louise's Family and Friends.
A complete list of all 2021 honorees is available here.