Norm’s wife, Peggy Anderson, and a few people who had worked with Norm during his years of service on the board, shared remembrances with Heidi Habeger of Groundswell.
Heidi Habeger: Where did Norm’s passion for conservation came from?
Peggy Anderson: Norm spent his childhood in a very industrial part of Indiana. His aunt and uncle had a cottage next door to the Davidson (Harley Davidson) cottage on Lake Ripley, so every summer his family drove to Wisconsin to visit the relatives. He loved every moment in Wisconsin. He told me that the happiest day of the year was driving to Lake Ripley and the saddest day was leaving for Indiana. The contrast between the terrains was prominent to him even as a very small child.
Heidi Habeger: What inspired Norm to get involved with the establishment of Groundswell?
Peggy Anderson: Norm was a great admirer of Aldo Leopold and purchased land in one of the sand counties where he worked in the woods, trout fished, hunted and just enjoyed the tranquility of the marsh. His love of our natural resources led him, very naturally, to work on the establishment of what is now Groundswell.
Heidi Habeger: What motivated Norm to make a gift to Groundswell Conservancy in his will?
Peggy Anderson: Norm frequently spoke of a conversation he had with Gaylord Nelson many years ago. Gaylord had just returned from a trip to California and he told Norm “I have seen the future and it won’t work”. We can’t cover the country with concrete, asphalt and cars and expect clean air, water and terrain. Norm fully realized the value of the fertile ground in Dane County and urgent need to protect as much as possible. Establishing land trusts is a perfect way to protect resources and preserve open spaces in an ever expanding urbanization.
A Few Words About Norman Anderson, by Bill O’Connor:
Norm Anderson was a champion of the environmental movement before it had a name. Years before the first Earth Day dawned or the 1970s Environmental Decade stirred to life, Norm was writing – and passing – laws that made Wisconsin a model of wise state conservation policy. Studying in UW’S Institute for Environmental Studies, I learned from Professors like Bud Jordahl and Steve Born about the far-reaching Navigable Waters Protection Act (to this day a landmark law critical to the fate of our lakes and streams) and other conservation laws brought to life by Norm in the 1960s. As a legislator Norm was a work horse, not a showboat . . . always on the lookout for new and better ways to preserve the spectacular land and water resources of his adopted home state.
When Mayor Joe Sensenbrenner empaneled a Blue-Ribbon Committee in 1983 to look for a way to “Save Eagle Heights” woods, it was natural for him to ask Norm to serve as chair. He brought deep experience and assured leadership to the task, recognizing immediately how a “land trust” could complement the work of public agencies to protect critical lands. I worked closely with Norm and the committee as a young lawyer whose main credential was familiarity with land trusts and what they could do. That committee chartered the Dane County Natural Heritage Foundation and Saved the Woods, too! For the fledgling non-profit’s first 5 years, Norm ably chaired the Foundation’s Board.
About the time Norm stepped down from the Foundation’s leadership, he asked me to join his law firm. We worked together on conservation and other matters until he retired some 30 years later. For me, Norm was a wise, devoted mentor and friend. As a private lawyer, he was a model of positive civic engagement. As a Groundswell founder, he set the bar high for integrity and practical conservation results. We are lucky to be able to carry on Norm Anderson’s legacy.
Bill Lunney, former board president of Groundswell and served on the board with Norm:
Norm Anderson’s leadership as the Dane County Natural Heritage Foundation’s first President was critical to the early success of the organization (now Groundswell Conservancy). His status as Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, and a long time local environmental leader provided instant credibility to our fledgling organization and opened the doors for success.
As the Foundation’s first President, he guided us with a steady hand through the many early challenges and helped establish the framework for our enduring success. Of note, he was one of the recipients of the Foundation’s first Stewardship Awards, joining leaders like Owen Gromme, and Walter Frautschi.