The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College

Tucked next to the traditional stone buildings of the Northland College campus, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute (SOEI) lives in a modest building set among towering trees with generous windows for observing the birds, squirrels and fox living nearby. This is a place for professors, students and the general public to gather in an attempt to solve environmental problems related to the area's woods, water, wildlife and wilderness.

SOEI is also known for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing award, an annual recognition for outstanding environmental literature. The award is dedicated to Sigurd F. Olson (1899-1982), the world-famous nature writer, biologist, conversationalist and canoe guide who lived most of his life in Ely, Minn.

Raised in northern Wisconsin, Olson was also a one-time Northland student, though he completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin. The Sigurd Olson institute was founded in 1972, inspired by the philosophies found in Olson's articles, essays and books including "Listening Point" (1958) and "Wilderness Days" (1972).

Lake Superior Wilderness Conference

Inn on Lake Superior, Duluth, Sept. 5-6

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To celebrate the signing of the Wilderness Act into law by President Lyndon Johnson, SOEI hosts the Lake Superior Wilderness Conference in Duluth this weekend. Sigurd F. Olson helped draft the historic 1964 bill, which established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and protected an initial 9.1 million acres for the use and benefit of all Americans. Since then, Congress has added more than 100 million acres to the land preservation system in 757 wilderness areas throughout the nation. The schedule includes a roster of nationally acclaimed biologists, historians and environmentalists whose work focuses on the Lake Superior watershed.