Melissa Scanlan

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Melissa Scanlan

1999 Global Fellow
Founder of Midwest Environment Advocates, Inc

Melissa Scanlan 1999 Global Fellow

Bold Idea 

Provide high quality legal services that support a multicultural, grassroots social movement; build local leadership; and implement innovative solutions to environmental problems.


Midwesterners are a people rooted in their land. That bond can be traced from a time when lakes and rivers formed the backbone of villages and transportation for European settlers. This connection with the land is even more significant for the Native American communities that preceded European settlement. Despite this connection, the region faces many environmental problems, from toxic fish to pollution from livestock factories. The Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA), Wisconsin's first and only nonprofit environmental law center, provides legal and technical assistance to grassroots groups promoting environmental justice in the Western Great Lakes region. MEA provides high-quality legal service to support a diverse social movement, builds local leadership, and implements innovative solutions to environmental problems. The center also runs an Advocacy Network of pro bono attorneys to represent individuals and groups on environmental issues. MEA has already vastly improved conditions in the Midwest.


Melissa Scanlan is the Director of the Environmental Law Center and Associate Dean of the Environmental Law Program at Vermont Law School.

In 1999 she founded and directed Wisconsin’s first nonprofit environmental law center, Midwest Environmental Advocates, which went on to make a difference in all kinds of environmental issues, including those involving water ranging from chemical discharge in municipal systems to manure run-off at dairy farms to ballast water in Great Lakes vessels. As the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Water Law and Policy Scholar, she helped launch the Center for Water Policy on the campus of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Melissa received a law degree and a master of science from the University of California Berkeley.

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