Death of a Noted Neighbor. Louise Dunlap, 1946-2021.
Updated: Apr 22
She had national credentials, having marshaled forces to pass the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, aimed at repairing decades of coal-mining scarring that left lands from Appalachia to the West looking like the underside of the moon.
Louise Dunlap, a Lancaster, Pa., native, already had co-founded Washington advocacy organizations. She has cited as her inspiration a book she read early in life, Harry Caudill’s 1963 Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area.
She was emboldened by her 1977 success, for which she was toasted by President Jimmy Carter in a Rose Garden signing ceremony for the landmark law. She never stopped lobbying on behalf of funding to restore stripped lands and offered counsel to many organizations. You can read toasts to her at Energy and Environmental News.
In a loss to that world and ours, Louise died on April 15, 2021 at age 75, of a form of acute leukemia,
She and husband Joe Browder, a famed environmental leader in his own right, found each other in the world of advocacy and married in 1976. They seemed as close as couples could get, looking after one another touchingly as both endured health challenges. Louise traveled to Baltimore for many years for regular blood transfusions. Joe, a force over the years on behalf of the Everglades, died in 2016 after a series of ailments.
Louise and Joe were political players at every level, advising Democratic politicians from Maryland to Florida and lobbying for green solutions. They kept an office for many years on Capitol Hill to be close to the action. They also leapt into local issues, helping in the 1990s to negotiate the state’s purchase of 477 acres of sensitive lands on the Shady Side Peninsula.
Our view of Louise was more intimate. To us, she was a wise, effervescent and generous neighbor — as well as a political animal.
Louise was unfailingly generous, delivering flowers to neighbors and inviting friends to walk the long lane to their acreage overlooking the Bay and experience the majesty of so many fragrant magnolias planted by Joe over the years in his encyclopedic botanical garden.
She was generous of spirit, too, offering advice in our close-knit community about new neighbors. “Maybe they will enrich your life in some way. You never know,” she said.
Late last year Louise sold he beloved property she and Joe bought in 1980. He called it “one small place of land, marsh and water in a community on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake—Fairhaven.” Of course, Louise made sure to tell us to get to know the new owners, who she called just the right people to continue as its stewards.
In her view, doing good was a ceaseless cycle.
"I do this as a relay race, where we go around the track again and again and again, year after year after year," Louise said at a conference last year of her pro-environment efforts."Some people get tired and stop for a while; other people come in and join in the effort."