Farewell to a Best Friend of Our Great Lakes and to a Great Protector of the Health and Welfare of Millions of Americans and Canadians who live Around Them 

Remembering Veteran Environmentalist and a Great Lakes United founding member Lee Botts 

A Tribute from Long-time Ontario environmentalist and a former Great Lakes United leader, John Jackson 

Posted October 10th, 2019 on Niagara At Large 

Dear Great Lakes Friends and Colleagues 

Celebrating the life and legacy of Great Lakes environmentalist Lee Botts

It is with great memories and deep appreciation of her work for the Great Lakes for almost 60 years, that I tell you of Lee Botts death on Saturday at age 91. 

Lee has been an inspiration for so many of us who were lucky enough to know her, and a mentor for many of our current Great Lakes activists.

Lee was always outspoken, always had deep knowledge to support her outspokenness, and never hesitated to push at whatever level necessary to protect and enhance the Great Lakes system.  Lee was always searching for solutions and pushing for and working on implementation of those solutions.

She always had a good sense of the politics of the situation and of how to work the political system.

And she made time to talk with and support young activists. 

During her life, she was involved in local issues in North West Indiana and Illinois. But she was also a leader Great Lakes-wide. She clearly articulated the need to work ecosystem wide for the Great Lakes: locally, state-wide, federally, and binationally at the Canada-US level. 

She was one of the original advocates for the first Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (signed in 1972), and was a founder of the Lake Michigan Federation (now the Alliance for the Great Lakes).  

A book, co-authored by Lee Botts and Canadian environmentalist Paul Muldoon, on “The Evolution of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement,” one of the most importantl environmental pacts Canada and the United states have negotiated and signed in the past 100 years.

I remember her at founding meetings of Great Lakes United (LU) in the centre of the debate about the role and structure of Great Lakes United. She was always a supporter of GLU. Lee always shared her home in the dunes with activist groups for retreats and planning sessions. She was always an amazing host.

I remember times standing on the south shore of Lake Michigan in the Indiana Dunes – within sight of her home – and seeing massive industrial plants and their smokestacks looming at each end of the dunes. And then sitting in her house at a meeting where she had pulled together people who had led the successful struggle to stop industrial development from encroaching further into the dunes.  

Seeing those industrial hulks at both ends of the dunes makes me ever thankful for the people who fought to save the dunes and inspires me to realize we can do it too.

In her later years, Lee focused on developing the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Centre, which focuses on environmental education for students and teachers, including providing for overnight camps for the students and teachers in the Dunes. Lee was very proud of this.

May we continue to be inspired by Lee’s contributions to the Great Lakes and this home we share. The effects of the changes she worked so hard for in so many different ways have had many positive impacts on the Lakes and our political system.

These changes will have enduring impacts long after we and our memories are gone.

Below is a link to an article from yesterday in the NorthWest Indiana Times, based on interviews with Lee’s children, that outlines her story and her contributions to the Great Lakes in so many different roles.

You can click on that link here – https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lee-botts-children-reflect-on-her-life-as-pioneering-environmentalist/article_6f4c5ce0-fe55-570c-b76b-b96aa0be17c5.html <https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lee-botts-children-reflect-on-her-life-as-pioneering-environmentalist/article_6f4c5ce0-fe55-570c-b76b-b96aa0be17c5.html>

John Jackson is a veteran environmental activists, who has authored books and numerous articles on environmentalist issues, and has worked with citizen groups for decades, around the Great Lakes and on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, addressing threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem.  

In the 1980s and 90s, he also played a leading role in working with citizens groups in Niagara, Ontario to defeat a plan by a provincial crown corporation to build and operate a giant toxic waste treatment and disposal plant in rural West Lincoln.  

A Brief Foot Note from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –

As a long-time environment reporter who spent a good deal of my journalistic career covering Great Lakes issues, I want share my sympathies and best wishes here for friends and members of Lee Botts family. 

As I stated to John Jackson when he was kind enough to share the tribute message above with Niagara At Large, we cannot afford to lose people like Lee Botts – especially at times like these where environmental safeguards across North America have once again come under attack from those who, for their own narrow interests, would take us back to filthier, more toxic times before the first Earth Day and advent of the modern environmental movement. 

Indeed, as heartening as the growing youth movement on climate action is now, I fear that we are not replacing enough people like Lee Botts, willing and brave enough to stand up publicly and commit that kind of energy and passion to environmental issues in our Great Lakes region.

Her life and legacy should inspire us all to keep up the fight for a healthier, greener future. 

The following is a YouTube clip of Lee Botts, speaking for the richness and “global importance” of the ecosystem along and near the shores of Lake Michigan and her home in Gary, Indiana. You can watch it by clicking on the screen below –

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“A politician thinks of the next election. a leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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