By Suah Cheong, American Forests

Recognizing these women’s accomplishments is not only deserved, but also necessary to reach our conservation goals. If it weren’t for their strong leadership and commitment to the planet, we wouldn’t see many of the environmental protection measures we have in place today. We hope to follow in their footsteps and create positive change for the generations to come!

Rosalie Edge (1877 – 1962)

Rosalie Edge was a suffragist and species preservation advocate. During her career, she urged her peers in the conservation world to take measures to protect a wider range of bird species. In 1934, she founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, the world’s first preserve for birds of prey. Edge also successfully led grassroots campaigns and lobbied congress to create national parks and purchase old-growth forest.

Margaret “Mardy” Murie (1902 – 2003)

Margaret “Mardy” Murie is considered the “grandmother of conservation.” A wildlife activist and ecologist, Murie worked to accomplish important wildness victories such as the establishment and expansion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1964. Just before her death in 2003, 101-year-old Murie was awarded a Conservationist of the Year award.

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)

Rachel Carson worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1943, but it was not until she resigned in 1952 to continue her writing career that she made groundbreaking changes to the conservation world. Her bestselling book, Silent Spring, brought the environmental movement to the mainstream by documenting the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment and highlighting the need for regulations.

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)

Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist from Nairobi, Kenya, founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. This organization focuses on environmental conservation, tree planting and women’s rights. Maathai also became a Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2004 for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”

Mollie Beattie (1947 – 1996)

Mollie Beattie was the first female director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She was integral in landmark environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. During her time there, Beattie oversaw the reintroduction of the gray wolf into the northern Rocky Mountains and the creation of 15 new wildlife refuges.