History of the Ohio Environmental Council

Early days of OEC
Announcement of the newly formed Ohio Conservation Association.

For more than 40 years, the Ohio Environmental Council has worked to protect our environment and precious natural resources. With the help of our thousands of members, partner organizations, and dedicated activists, we have made tremendous strides in environmental protection and restoration.


In 1969, Ohio made national news when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire. It was also the year that the U.S. Environmental Protection Association was created and the National Environmental Policy Act was passed.

1969 was also the year that 21 people decided to change Ohio’s environmental future with the formation of the Ohio Conservation Association.


By 1970, the name was changed to the Ohio Environmental Council.

Glenn Thompson, first president of the organization, said: “The year 1970 is one of utmost importance. The surge of interest is at its peak…never has the need or opportunity been so great” on April 15, 1970. 

A few days later, the first Earth Day was celebrated. One of the first projects the OEC took on was fighting against a proposed Logan Reservoir Project for Clear Creek in Hocking and Fairfield Counties. OEC was successful in its efforts and the proposed dam was defeated.


The 1980's brought success and tragedy. The OEC was able to help stop the sale of more than one-third of Ohio’s Wayne National Forest and a Detergent Phosphate Limit was passed.

In 1987, fire destroyed the OEC’s office and firefighter John W. Nance lost his life fighting the blaze.

However, OEC was able to celebrate 20 years in 1989.

Stephen Sedam, Executive Director of OEC from 1977 to 1990, reflected on his time.

“My 14 years at the OEC has given me a genuine sense of lasting accomplishments and enormous gratitude for the changes in environmental policy, organizational growth, and personal friendships that I gained during this time.”

Read the full interview.


The next decade held many accomplishments for the OEC. OEC helped with the court decision to Ohio’s anti-degradation law in 1996. The U.S. EPA proposed the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative to address the problems of toxic discharge in the Great Lakes Basin. 

OEC has continued to be heavily involved with the diverse policy work concerning the Great Lakes Basin.

The New Century

In 2003, the OEC established it's legal clinic (now called the Ohio Environmental Law Center), the first non-profit law center in Ohio dedicated to environmental issues.

In 2005, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Water Basin Compact was signed into law.

In 2008, hard work by the OEC and partners paid off when Ohio lawmakers passed into law one of the most progressive energy standards in the nation. These standards will help reduce energy use, step up wind and solar power, and help create green jobs.

View the 2005-06 Annual Report.

The budget in 1970 was $33,205 compared to the $1.3 million in 2009. 


Now, the OEC holds the state’s only non-profit environmental law center. There are more than 3,000 individual members and over 100 group members. 

The current OEC staff extends thanks to the visionaries of 1969, the staff and board, individual and group members, and volunteers who have worked incredibly hard between then and now, and continue to do so.

View the 2011-2012 Annual Report.