Senator Gaylord Nelson's interest in protecting the environment began to develop when he was a youngster living in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. He grew to become a dedicated civil servant and tireless advocate for the environment, and is widely recognized as the founder of the first Earth Day in 1970. In 1995, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his significant contributions by President Clinton. In bestowing the honor, the president said Nelson is “the father of Earth Day, and he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event−the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
Nelson’s public career always included an environmental agenda. He introduced the first legislation to ban the harmful pesticide DDT. He authored legislation to create the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States and the National Trails System, and was deeply involved with many other important pieces of environmental legislation, including the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act, the National Lakes Preservation Act, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Environmental Education Act.
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