Sierran Masthead

Indiana Loses Two Nationally Renowned Environmental Leaders

By Bill Hayden, Chapter Conservation Chair

Indiana has lost its two most respected environmental leaders, Tom and Jane Dustin.

After Tom earned his degree in Engineering Writing from Iowa State University, he and Jane drove across Indiana on the way back to New Jersey and stopped at Fort Wayne. There they fell in love with Cedar Creek and bought a farm on Chapman Road that bordered Cedar Creek. They built a home and raised three children, two of whom survive them. Their youngest son died in a climbing accident in the Grand Canyon many years ago.

Jane for many years dedicated her energies to saving environmentally significant lands in northeast Indiana through her leadership in Acres, Inc. Later she became the Hoosier most identified with protecting water quality and wetlands by trying to get the former Indiana Board of Health and later the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rigorously implement the federal Clean Water Act.

She served on the committee that drafted the 1990 Indiana Water Quality Rule. On it she won significant advances in water quality standards. Jane died in her sleep late last year to many of her friends' great shock and surprise.

Tom Dustin was easily the most effective environmentalist in Indiana history starting in the 1960s when he became the president of the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League.

After his term as president, the Indiana Division hired him as its executive secretary, a post he served in through the 1970s. During this time he made frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the Dunes National Lakeshore, the first federal Wilderness Bill, and all the landmark environmental legislation that passed as a result of Earth Day and the flowering of the environmental movement in the 1970s.

He also lobbied the Indiana legislature for the Indiana Division for over a decade. Two of his most cherished victories were the phosphate ban in laundry detergents and the State Scenic and Recreational Streams Act. At the time of passage, Indiana became the only Great Lakes state to ban phosphate from detergents-one of Indiana's few environmental firsts.

During this time he also led the Indiana Division in its fight to kill many reservoirs that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wanted to build to provide adequate summer water levels for a canal using the Wabash River from the Ohio River north to Terre Haute. After Tom fought this boondoggle for many years, the Corps finally admitted that its cost-to-benefit ratio was inadequate to justify the construction. The two most notable streams that Tom led the fight to save were Big Pine Creek and Big Walnut Creek. Effective coalitions were formed with local farmers to kill these projects.

In the 1970s Tom also led a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for its ill-advised Off-Road Vehicle Policy in the Brownstown District of the Hoosier National Forest, an area that is now in the Charles Deam Wilderness. The Forest Service settled the suit by agreeing to abandon the trail system south of Tower Ridge Road and to deal with the issue in its long-term management plan.

Nevertheless the Forest Service continued to try to put off-road vehicles in several different areas of the forest. After meeting stiff local resistance at every turn, the Forest Service finally surrendered. The Hoosier was the only national forest spared this environmental destruction.

Tom eventually gave up his executive secretary post and became the Indiana Improving Kid's Environment environmental affairs advisor, a post from which he waged war against the drainage interests in Allen County and Fort Wayne. He also served for several years as president of the Hoosier Environmental Council, giving that organization added clout with the state government. In recent years, Tom's smoking caught up with him, and he developed emphysema. It didn't stop him from continuing to wage war on the county surveyors and county drainage boards that wanted to remove log jams in his beloved Cedar Creek.

It also didn't keep him from addressing the participants of the Sierra Club outings leader training that was held in northern Indiana. He took great pride in being able to tell the participants that he knew Carl Pope long before he became the executive director of the Sierra Club when they were both in Washington lobbying on national environmental legislation.

After Jane's death, despite his best efforts to live alone and keep up the fight, Tom also died. For those of us who knew him and learned to be environmental activists at his knee, it is a great and irreplaceable loss.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[08/25/04]efp

Fall 2004