Editorial: Take the Earth Day challenge

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America sets aside April 22 every year to celebrate Earth Day.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, young and old have gathered globally to participate in activities that foster appreciation of the environment and create awareness of the issues that threaten our globe.

Earth Day was the late Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson's idea. Born in the northwoods of Polk County in 1916, "Conservation Governor" Nelson grew up admiring the beauty of Wisconsin. So early in his political career, Nelson committed to expanding recreation land and preserving the state's natural resources. As U.S. senator, he saw local resources being depleted or degraded and his concerns grew.

By 1969, Nelson proposed educators and students gather in their own communities and organize an environmental "teach-in day" that focused on educating the public about the environment. Nelson intended that word would get back to Washington that citizens solidly support environmental protection.

Early support for Earth Day was overwhelming. Many credit the Earth Day movement for passage of such efforts as National Environmental Protection, Endangered Species, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, Federal Pesticides, Environmental Education, National Hiking Trails and National Scenic Trails, and the Clean Air and Water Quality Improvement acts among other environmental laws.

Millions of people across the globe — and hundreds right here — still gather April 22 to consider the state of the environment and pitch in to improve it.

For example, Pierce County Land Conservation Department and Goodhue County Soil and Water Conservation District distribute thousands of trees every spring. Remember, trees produce oxygen, store carbon dioxide, provide homes for animals, recharge ground water, prevent wind and soil erosion, and more.

The various events across our region demonstrate support for environmental protection — educating people of all ages; repairing, enhancing and cleaning parks; removing lake, river and stream debris; eradicating invasive species or working to stop their spread; and simple things such as raking leaves, picking up litter, growing gardens, planting trees and collecting household hazardous waste.

Check out what your community is doing and set aside Earth Day to make a change in your life that will have a positive impact on the environment where you live.