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Local environmental activist Jane Dustin dies at 74
By Julie Creek
The Journal Gazette
December 1, 2003

Jane H. Dustin, a passionate environmental advocate celebrated for her tenacity and her broad knowledge of water quality issues, died Friday at her home in Huntertown. She was 74.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, Dustin and her husband, Tom, were involved in scores of local and national conservation campaigns, including opposing a federal plan to flood Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and the drive to create the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the 1960s.

Jane Dustin is also credited with helping to develop state regulations to protect Indiana's waterways and establish water quality standards for the state.

The Dustins were also among the co-founders of Acres Inc., one of the most successful land preservation groups in the country. Jane Dustin served as the group's secretary for 35 years and headed the land acquisition committee.

Born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Jane Dustin earned a degree in farm operations from Iowa State University.

With no formal training in environmental science, the couple obtained their environmental educations on their own, reading, attending seminars and slogging through government reports.

With her knowledge of water quality issues, she led the Izaak Walton League of America's Water Quality Committee.

The Dustins drew fire for their passionate opposition to the Maumee River widening project that was designed to prevent flooding. They had argued that other flood control measures - including reforestation of the flood plain, wetlands preservation and planting grass in farm field waterways - should be tried before construction projects were launched.

Dustin and her husband were currently involved in a campaign opposing federal plans to allow energy exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

Most recently, the Dustins were part of a group charged with developing a plan to protect Cedar Creek from erosion, drainage problems, logjams and water pollution.

Dustin was honored many times for her environmental work. She was a recipient of the Izaak Walton League's highest recognition, the Founders' Award. She was most recently given the IPALCO Award for her work.

"She has been a tireless and selfless champion for decades," said Tim Maloney, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. "She has left such a mark on Indiana. She fought to strengthen water quality standards to protect public health and aquatic life. She worked on both the regulatory side and the conservation side."

"Besides being such a strong and public champion of the environment, she was a very nice person, generous and kind," he added. "The Dustins welcomed visitors to their home."

Fellow environmental activist Ethyle Bloch, regional vice president of the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, remembers paddling the rivers of northeast Indiana with Jane Dustin searching for evidence of overflowing sewer drains long before the issue entered the public consciousness.

"Jane had all the knowledge, and I learned so much from her," Bloch said. "She was a wonderful lady, so knowledgeable I couldn't keep up with her."

I suppose lots of people didn't like her," she added, "but they didn't like environmentalists."

The Dustins drew plenty of fire from critics, who argued that the couple were not willing to compromise with their adversaries.

Allen County Commissioner Ed Rousseau, who was frequently on the other side of drainage issues from the Dustins, remembers Jane Dustin as a well-informed and passionate environmentalist who held Allen County officials strictly to the law.

"They've both contributed very much," Rousseau said. "And they put the rest of us to the test, whether we're following the law. They worked very hard for what they believed in, and that's what they'll be remembered for."

"With people like Jane or Tom around," he added. "you'd better be doing it right."

In addition to her husband, Dustin is survived by a daughter, Mary of Leesburg, Va.; a son, John of Whitefish, Mont.; and five grandchildren.

No services or calling are planned.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Jane H. Dustin Memorial Fund in care of Acres Inc., 2000 N. Wells St., Fort Wayne, IN 46808.

Jane Dustin's legacy
Editorial, The Journal-Gazette
December 2, 2003

Jane Dustin's tireless passion left a splendid legacy of cleaner air and water in Indiana. Her death stills a voice that will be deeply missed in state and local environmental debates.

Although known primarily as an environmental activist, her life can serve as an inspiration to any citizen seeking to make a difference in public policy. Jane and her husband, Tom, another prominent environmentalist, never campaigned for public office. But they may well have exerted more influence than some legislators, relying on nothing more than diligence, tenacity, and passion in promoting their goals. They were also zealous in using the state's open meetings and records law to make their opinions known and hold government officials' accountable.

They lobbied legislators, appealed zoning and regulatory actions, served on public bodies and zoning groups, wrote countless letters to politicians, bureaucrats and newspapers.

"We should grapple those rights to our hearts," she said in a story announcing the Dustins' selection as The Journal Gazette's citizens of the year in 1993.

The list of causes in which Jane Dustin made a difference include: establishment of the Dunes National Lakeshore Park, passage of the Indiana Nature Preserves Act, establishing the Fox Island Nature Preserve in Allen county and banning phosphate detergents from state waterways. She fought unsuccessfully against the Maumee River widening in the 1980s, but gained a measure of vindication years later from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The agency told the Maumee River Basin Commission to repair erosion along the banks in Fort Wayne, the same problem she had warned against before the project began.

She was active at the time of her death, participating in planning to protect her beloved Cedar Creek from erosion, drainage problems, logjams and water pollution.

Her life mocks fashionable beliefs that politics is a game strictly for special people with money and social status to bring them influence. Jane Dustin was an outstanding environmentalist and even more outstanding as an active citizen.

She engaged her passions, and the state is richer for her having done so.

One less defender in our back yard
By Bob Caylor
for the editorial board
The News-Sentinel
December 2, 2003

Jane Dustin, who lived near Huntertown, was one of Indiana's most determined volunteer environmentalists. She died Friday, leaving a legacy of service to everyone who prefers clean water to polluted water.

Dustin, 74, and her husband, Tom, were crusaders for environmental protection long before environmentalism was a movement that made headlines. Two examples among scores we could offer: They played large parts in creating the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and in founding ACRES, a conservation group that preserves natural areas in northeast Indiana.

She learned the intricacies of state and federal regulations governing water quality, then used that knowledge to press an unrelenting campaign to clean up Indiana's water. Much of her work involved corresponding with and speaking before government agencies, but she could be a hands-on watchdog, too. In the early days of the federal Clean Water Act, for example, she canoed Fort Wayne's three rivers, looking for illegal discharges of sewage.

Here's one thing that really set Jane Dustin apart from most people who would describe themselves as "environmentalists": She cared about preserving natural blessings before she could see the problem from her front porch.

Many people won't act or speak or even bone up on environmental issues until they see immediate threats to their neighborhood -- say, a new factory, a shopping center or a landfill. NIMBY, not in my back yard, is a label often attached to such activists.

But Jane Dustin worked on water-quality issues throughout Allen County, surrounding counties, the state and sometimes even distant states.

If Jane Dustin was a NIMBY, then the world was her back yard.

Environmentalist's death leaves void
By Kevin Kilbane
of The News-Sentinel
December 3, 2003

Local folks concerned about conservation said they will have to work as a group to fill the void left by the death of environmentalist Jane Dustin.

"Jane had years and years of experience with the law and with regulations, and we all are going to try to sit down and pick up the pieces," said Al Diefenbach, president of the Cedar Creek Wildlife Project.

Dustin, 74, died Friday at her home overlooking Cedar Creek, a stream she and her husband, Tom, worked for decades to protect and preserve. Her family plans a memorial service for a later date.

The Dustins' environmental conservation work dates back to the 1950s. They have been a part of saving areas ranging from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan to Fox Island County Park in southwest Allen County.

They were part of the group that launched ACRES Inc. land trust, which now maintains 50 nature preserves throughout northeast Indiana. She served on the ACRES board of directors for 40 years.

The Dustins also battled stream widening and channelization, landfill expansions and the discharge of untreated sewage from city wastewater-treatment plants and septic systems. Her focus has been water quality and the preservation of wetlands and shoreline habitat.

"They ate, slept and breathed this concern and passion for environmental issues," said Christopher J. Crow,an assistant professor of geosciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne who had been working with the Dustins on water-quality and wetland issues.

One of the keys to carrying on her work will be dividing it up, because no one person stands ready to devote the time Jane Dustin did.

"She was working as full-time volunteer staff for the Cedar Creek Wildlife Project and the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League," said Karen Griggs of Ashley, a friend and active member of both organizations.

The Cedar Creek group functions as a neighborhood association and environmental-conservation organization for landowners in the Cedar Creek watershed.

Dustin nurtured and prodded people to get involved, which has prepared those people to take up her cause, Griggs and others said. A broader spectrum of people working together potentially could be as effective as Dustin was alone, said Diefenbach and David Van Gilder, a local attorney, Cedar Creek resident and environmentalist.

But getting more people involved also is like inviting a group to row a multi-oared boat, Van Gilder said. They need someone in the middle chanting and keeping everyone coordinated and rowing together.

For decades, Dustin filled that role so well, he said. "That is what I think is going to be lost - somebody minding the store," he said.

Honoring Dustin: The family has requested any donations be made to the Jane H. Dustin Memorial Fund at ACRES Inc. land trust, which hopes to acquire land along Cedar Creek in her memory. Donations can be mailed to: ACRES Inc., 2000 N. Wells St., Fort Wayne, IN 46808. For information, call 422-1004.

The Irreplaceable Jane Dustin
by Steven Higgs
The Bloomington Alternative
December 7, 2003

Indiana's environment lost one of the best friends it has ever had - or ever will have - when Jane Dustin passed away the day after Thanksgiving at her home in Huntertown just north of Fort Wayne.

Former Hoosier Environmental Council Executive Director and close Dustin friend Jeff Stant put the loss this way in an e-mail to the Sierra Club's Hoosier-Topics list: "She wasn't just a well-known activist. Not just one of our leaders. When it came to the creeks, the rivers, the lakes and wetlands of our beloved state, she was the one who never rested. She was the leader. She was our leader."

Current HEC Executive Director Tim Maloney echoed his predecessor’s sentiments in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: "She has been a tireless and selfless champion for decades. She has left such a mark on Indiana. She fought to strengthen water quality standards to protect public health and aquatic life. She worked on both the regulatory side and the conservation side."

And it wasn't just close friends and environmentalists who held Jane and husband Tom in that high regard. When the Journal Gazette honored the pair as its 1993 "Citizens of the Year," the editors cited "the type of citizenship the Dustins display - passionate, controversial, American-style advocacy."

In an editorial titled Jane Dustin's Legacy, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel said last week: "Jane Dustin's tireless passion left a splendid legacy of cleaner air and water in Indiana. … Jane Dustin was an outstanding environmentalist and even more outstanding as an active citizen. She engaged her passions, and the state is richer for her having done so."

In January 1994, Tom wrote me: "Jane really is a leading authority on the Clean Water Act. Folks from all the other organizations, including HEC, pretty much follow her lead. The fact is that while these days I focus more on a few specific issues, Jane is 'at it' every waking moment."


I met Jane Dustin a year or so before Tom's letter when I visited their home to interview Tom for my book, Eternal Vigilance, which featured a profile on him and his lifelong work on behalf of Indiana's rivers, lakes, and streams. The chapter was titled "Tom Dustin: Saving Indiana's Rivers from the Corps of Engineers." Had I known then what I know now, the chapter would have been titled: "Tom and Jane Dustin: Saving Indiana's Rivers." It should have been.

Tom spent much of that day trudging up and down the stairs to his basement office to photocopy newspaper stories and Izaak Walton League newsletter articles about the fight to stop Corps plans to channelize the Wabash River. His many trips were slowed substantially by a heavy-smoker's cough, giving Jane and I abundant time to sit around the long wooden table in their dining area and talk.

It was then that I first experienced Jane’s passion and intensity. In her mid-60s, she was a consummate multi-tasker, stuffing and licking envelopes, talking about Tom and their lives and work together, all the while preparing memorable lunches, snacks, and dinners, never missing a beat. She was “at it” the entire 24 hours or so that I was at their home, as she was when I returned a few months later to photograph Tom for the book.

The focus of those trips was on Tom and the Wabash, and Jane did little to draw attention to her own accomplishments. I soon learned that Jane’s contributions, as Tom described them, were “neither cosmetic nor domestic.” Their pioneering environmental activism in the 1950s and 60s on the Save the Dunes Council and Allen County Reserves (later Acres Inc.) were full partnerships. And those efforts helped set the stage for the environmental movement that burst into the American consciousness following the first Earth Day in 1970.

Like Tom, Jane individually earned the national Izaak Walton League's Founders' Award, its highest honor. In 1992, she was named HEC's Conservationist of the Year. She served as Acres' secretary for 35 year and chaired both the state and national Izaak Walton League Water Quality Committees.

Jane was a recognized authority on the Clean Water Act not only in Indiana but nationally, as well. "And she doesn't take that standing passively," Tom wrote in 94.


My contact with Jane the past few years has been limited to a few chance encounters in Indianapolis when I worked at IDEM and she would come down for meetings with the commissioner. From time to time, she called to alert me to issues she thought I needed to know about. And I'd get the occasional 10 X 12 envelope from her stuffed with information about this water quality issue or that.

The last I heard from Jane was last April when she sent a $25 check to support the Indiana Environmental Report, an online environmental news service I publish. I was and am humbled to think that Jane Dustin may have used my work in hers.

With all the benefits of hindsight, I recognize today that Jane influenced my life decades before I ever met her. Indeed, every citizen in Indiana is indebted to her, not just those of us who were privileged enough to experience the fire in her eyes and the passion in her soul. All who follow will have to work that much harder. Jane Dustin is irreplaceable.

Steven Higgs is editor of The Bloomington Alternative.


A conservation icon will be missed
Letter to the Editor
The Evening Star
Auburn, IN
Wed., Dec. 10, 2003

To the editor:

A few years ago I visited my friends, Jane and Tom Dustin, at a remote campsite on Steamboat Mountain in Wyoming’s Red Desert where they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. After they accepted my proffered watermelon and white wine and expressed their condolences for my car’s rapidly deflating tires, we settled into a night of stories, accompanied by the calls of coyotes and great horned owls. The tales ranged from the Dustins’ combined efforts to create the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and protecting Indiana’s water quality to Tom’s tribulations of getting treed by a wild stallion near here. We spent a weekend of walks, wonder and ramblings — as they taught me about a magic mountain in my own backyard.

I will never forget that time. Jane’s laughter, soft words and loving nature combined with Tom’s equally loving nature but slightly drier political commentaries. They are family to me — and to many of us in Wyoming. When we heard last week of Jane Dustin’s passing, we grieved for a hero who championed protecting wild lands here from Wyoming’s Red Desert and the Bridger Teton Nation Forest to the Upper Green River Valley. Indiana residents need to know that Jane and Tom Dustin are conservation icons not only in Indiana, but in Wyoming and other states as well.

But we grieved in Wyoming more at the loss not only of an environmental lioness, but also of a dear friend who will be remembered as much for her kindness as her courage.

Several years ago, a group of Red Desert lovers started to refer to one spring on Steamboat Mountain as “Dustin Springs” in honor of this incredible couple’s love of this land and their indefatigable efforts to protect it. When Jane heard about this new-fangled addition to the desert lexicon, she protested. Her humility will also be missed.

All of us in Wyoming miss you, Jane, as a dear friend and a fighter for so many things good in this world. You will never be forgotten.

Mac Blewer
Outreach Coordinator
Wyoming Outdoor Council
Lander, Wyoming

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