In Praise of Lana Pollack

Great Lakes Guardian Completes Service Today on International Joint Commission

By Dave Dempsey

Today, after nine years of service on the International Joint Commission (IJC), Michigan’s Lana Pollack steps down as chair of the U.S. Section.  It’s a milestone in a career of public service spanning 40 years.

In her role on the IJC, Lana has been a forceful voice for environmental protection and government transparency as the Commission has gone about its work in preventing and resolving disputes involving the boundary waters shared by the U.S. and Canada.  She has been a thoughtful advocate for protection as the IJC exercises its oversight responsibilities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and has worked to engage a broader community in Great Lakes discussions than the usual suspects.

It was largely because of Lana‘s persuasion that the IJC endorsed consideration of the public trust doctrine in two reports, one on rehabilitation of Lake Erie and one on water use and diversions.  The institutional support has given the doctrine, FLOW’s central organizing principle, a new relevance in Great Lakes policy discussions.

“Lana Pollack is one of those rare leaders who combines vision, smarts, passion and communication to achieve the common good,” said FLOW President Jim Olson. “She has been a true champion of the Great Lakes.”

Lana’s leadership is palpable here in the Great Lakes. Lana has been a friend of clean water and the environment throughout her career, beginning with her election in 1982 to the Michigan State Senate for the first of three terms. Her polluter pay law, enacted in 1990, generated close to $100 million for cleanups from those who generated or profited from pollution, before a hostile legislature repealed it after she left office in 1995.

She served from 1996-2008 as president of the Michigan Environmental Council. In addition, Lana was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, taught at the University of Michigan and was an elected trustee of the Ann Arbor Board of Education. Other professional experiences included co-founding a statewide general interest magazine, and co-directing a school for elementary education in Lusaka, Zambia.

She served on a number of educational, non-profit and corporate boards, including the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board, which annually directed $35-50 million in discretionary public funds to protect, purchase and enhance parkland and open space for preservation and recreation.

“Lana’s public career is truly inspiring, accented by visionary leadership and an enduring legacy to benefit the people and ecosystem health of the Great Lakes,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. 

Lana, who grew up on the shore of Lake Michigan in Ludington, earned a BA in political science from the University of Michigan (U-M) in 1965 and an MA from U-M in 1970. She is married to Henry Pollack, with whom she raised two children.

Lana has done much for the Great Lakes, and even more for the environment overall. She deserves thanks for her years of service, and her unflinching commitment to the principle of environmental protection.

4 comments on “In Praise of Lana Pollack

  1. Kathie Weinmann on

    Ms Pollack, I can’t thank you enough for your leadership and inspiration over these many years of public service. You’ve influenced thousands of people and decisions. Thank You most sincerely!

  2. Trish Morris on

    Lana, you’re an absolute environmental hero. I miss your wisdom, humor, wit and guidance. I hope you enjoy your scenic views on the shores of your beloved Lake Michigan in your retirement. You’ve left a legacy on the IJC no one can match.

  3. Brad on

    Ms. Pollack’s desire for Plan 2014 was to accomplish the following 3 Goals…
    “To protect against extreme water levels, to restore wetlands, and to prepare for climate change. The new maximum water level is six Centimetres (a little more than two inches) higher than the previous maximum, a “more natural variation,”

    What has resulted? Two record breaking years of water levels, the wetlands have become an ecological disaster and this Plan did not in any way, shape or form, ‘prepare for climate change.’ Does Ms. Pollack have any comment as to why her Plan has failed at all 3 Goals?

  4. Daphne Treado Hodder on

    It is wonderful to read this article about LanaPollack. I became acquainted with her many years ago when she was our state senator – I have never forgotten her.I wish her every good thing.


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Great Lakes Guardian Completes Service Today on International Joint Commission