Flashback 1970s: Wetlands Protection

Bill Bryson and the marsh he fought to protect, 1974

Bill Bryson and the marsh he fought to protect, 1974 (Minnesota Historical Society)

In 1970, officials in Freeborn County, Minnesota, informed farmer Bill Bryson that they planned to drain a marsh on his property to make way for a new road. But Bryson was fond of his marsh and didn’t want to see it destroyed. He sued the county under the new Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. Five years later, he won. The Minnesota Supreme Court, in one of its most significant environmental decisions, described wetlands as “the most ancient of cathedrals” and ordered the county to leave Bryson’s marsh alone. The case known as County of Freeborn v. Bryson raised public awareness of the importance of wetlands and led to the establishment of new state standards for wetlands protection—standards that now rank among the nation’s most stringent.

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Dave Kenney

About Dave Kenney

Freelance writer specializing in Minnesota history. Co-author of "Minnesota in the '70s," published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. The one to blame for the MN70s blog on Tumblr (MN70s.tumblr.com). Tweets at @MN70s