MCE began its work in 1969 from the St. Louis Conference on the Environment at the Missouri Botanical Garden as the region’s first independent citizens’ group created to address a broad range of environmental policy issues. MCE began before there was an EPA or a Department of Natural Resources. We began fighting for environmental protection before there was a Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act.
Since our beginnings, we have engaged agencies, governments, corporations and communities in critical decisions about Missouri’s environment. We have routinely conducted citizen education so people can make informed decisions about the legal underpinnings of environmental protections, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Farm Bill, local ordinances, health standards, and other tools that govern our land, water, food, health, and air. Today, we work to enforce the laws that protect our public land and natural resources, and advocate for change at all levels of government for the protection of environmental and public health.
Our founders included conservationist, Leo Drey, attorney, his wife and nuclear activist, Kay Drey, Lewis Green and his wife, Louise Green, scientist, Barry Commoner, and city planner, Alfred Kahn. In 1968, they hosted a conference on the Environmental Crisis at Washington University. Work groups focused on topics such as water pollution, pesticides use, and air pollution. The organization’s early board members included Louise Green, Walston Chubb, and Father James Mulligan. By 1971, the group filed its first landmark lawsuit against major floodplain development, winning a seminal ruling prohibiting development below the high water mark without a federal permit. This was just the beginning.