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Environmental Defense Fund Archive
Collection 232

Record Group 1: Founders' Papers
Sub-group I: Dennis Puleston Papers

Collection Description:
Correspondence, memos, meeting minutes, articles, and clippings, 1967-1999.
3.6 linear feet.
Donated by the family of Dennis Puleston in 2002.
Processed by Meredith Bouchard, 2003. Updated in August 2009.

Biographical Note
Scope and Content Note
Series Descriptions
Box and Container Listing

Biographical Note

Dennis Puleston was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a fishing village in southeast England. Growing up near the waterfront imbued Dennis with a passion for sailing and nature. After studying biology and naval architecture at London University, he and a fellow shipmate set sail around the world. The voyage spanned 6 years and recounted in his memoir, Blue Water Vagabond, published in 1939.

By 1941, Puleston settled with his wife and family in Brookhaven Long Island. He spent the war years aiding the design of the DUKW, an amphibious craft used by the U.S. Army and Marines for transporting supplies. He also took the responsibility of training of the troops in its operation. In 1948, President Truman awarded Dennis the Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the war effort. During this time he was employed by Brookhaven National Laboratory and continued to observe and record wildlife.

Mr. Puleston began observing the habits of the ospreys at Gardiner’s Island in 1948. His observations of the decline of the osprey population would be one of the threads that led to the ultimate creation of Environmental Defense Fund.

In 1966, Puleston and a number of scientists on the Brookhaven Town Natural Resources Committee testified in a class action suit initiated by Victor Yannacone, Jr. to ban the use of DDT in Suffolk County, NY. Dennis provided evidence by drawing food chain charts to illustrate how DDT affected the environment. Although the case was dismissed, DDT was banned in Suffolk County in 1967, New York in 1970 and nationwide in 1972. Because of the unique approach to environmental issues, several of key players in the DDT litigation decided to incorporate as The Environmental Defense Fund in 1967. Mr. Puleston was appointed the first Chairman of the Board.

After his retirement from Brookhaven National Laboratory, Puleston remained active in conservation projects and was a member of several committees, was an Honorary Trustee of Environmental Defense Fund, and continued his interest in studying the natural environment.

Published works include: Blue Water Vagabond: Six Years Adventure at Sea; published by Doubleday in 1939; A Nature Journal: A Naturalist’s Year on Long Island, illustrated by the author, and published by Norton in 1992.


Puleston, Dennis. Blue Water Vagabond (New York: Doubleday, 1939).

Rogers, Marion Lane. Acorn Days (New York: Environmental Defense Fund, 1990) 23-29.

Environmental Defense newsletter. "Dennis Puleston: 1905-2001 He Left the World a Better Place" September 2001, p. 3.

Lewis, Paul. "Dennis Puleston, 95, Environmental Leader." New York Times, June 16, 2001, Section B, p. 9, Col. 4.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Dennis Puleston span the years 1967-1999 (bulk 1970s). The collection is composed of correspondence, memos, meeting minutes, articles, and clippings. The papers are professional in nature and cover EDF’s Executive Committee and Board of Trustees meetings and discussions, some of which document EDF’s evolution and policy making. Puleston’s interests outside of the realm of EDF are included, such as the marine environment of Long Island, ospreys, and the conservation efforts to save Long Island’s natural resources.
The papers are arranged into three series: EDF Documents; Long Island Water Management; and General Subject files.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Environmental Defense Fund Documents 1966-1999 [2.24 linear ft]
Arrangement: Sub-divided into correspondence & memoranda; meeting minutes & subject files

The EDF Document series consists of correspondence and memoranda, minutes and agenda of the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees, the EDF Letter, case files and subject files. The material spans the organization’s inception in 1966-67 to the late 1990s. Correspondence, memos and minutes are the most common formats found in the collection.

Correspondence and memos are kept in the original date order. Most items are copies of correspondence in which Puleston was sent for informational purposes. Topics include: memos regarding EDF and its structure, finances and personnel; discussion about nuclear power plants (April 1972); ED and proposed programming (1972) and wildlife (1973).

Subject files are composed of correspondence, clippings, and other material. The arrangement is alphabetical.  The subject files reflect many of the litigation files found in the NY office files.

The Board of Trustees memos range in topic from EDF structural and personnel policies, EDF’s niche in the environmental movement, to publicity strategies, and fundraising.

Executive Committee memos concern EDF’s programs, personnel, organizational structure, and case approval requests.

Series 2: Long Island Environment 1972-1977[1.3 linear ft.]
Arrangement: Sub-divided into Nassau Suffolk Regional Planning Board; Regional Marine Resources Council and Brookhaven Town

Series 2 is composed of minutes and correspondence of committees designated to conserve and protect the marine environment of Long Island. Represented in the collection are: The Nassau Suffolk Regional Planning Board, the Regional Marine Resource Council, Brookhaven Town Natural Resources Committee, and the Brookhaven Town Project Advisory Committee.

Box and Container Listing

SERIES 1: Environmental Defense Fund Documents

Box  1

Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1968-1969
Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1969
Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1974-1975
Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1976
Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1978
Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1984-1989
Correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1990-1995
Memoranda, Board of Trustees, 1974
Memoranda, Board of Trustees, 1976-1978
Memoranda, Executive Committee, 1971-1972
Memoranda, Executive Committee, January 1973-June 1973
Memoranda, Executive Committee, July 1973-August 1973
Memoranda, Executive Committee, October 1973
Memoranda, Executive Committee, 1974
Memoranda, Executive Committee, 1975-1978

Box 2

Meeting Minutes--Board of Trustees:
September 1987
February 1992
February 1993
September 1993
January 1996

Box 3

Meeting minutes—Board of Trustees:
September 1996
January 1998
April 1998
September 1998

Box 4

Meeting minutes—Board of Trustees:
January 1999

Meeting minutes--Executive Committee:
February-June 1970
July-December 1970
January-June 1971
June-December 1971
January-June 1972
July-December 1972
January-July 1973
August-December 1973
January-November 1977, October 1978
January 1988

Box 5

Subject Files
Antarctica, 1988-1991
Antartica, papers, 1980, 1988, 1990
California water projects, 1972
Coral reefs, 1989-1992
DDT, 1966-1967
DDT, 1968-1969
DDT, 1970
DDT, 1971-1973, 1976, undated
EDF, early history [ Acorn Days compilation], 1986-1989
Gypsy moths, 1971
Gypsy moths, 1973

Box 6

Subject Files:
Porpoise-tuna, 1972-1974
Tellico Dam Project, 1974
Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, 1971

SERIES 2: Long Island Environment

Box 7

Nassau Suffolk Regional Planning Board:
Meeting minutes, 1975-77
Citizens Advisory Committee on wastewater management [ms], 1977
Coastal zone management plan [ms], 1973
Marine Pollution [report], ca. 1972

Sea Grant Association--newsletters, nd
Reports of the New York Ocean Science Laboratory (2), 1974

Regional Marine Resources Council:
Report of activities to the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Bd, 1967, 1969
Meeting minutes, October 1972-March 1973
Meeting minutes, April-December 1973

Box 8

Regional Marine Resources Council meeting minutes:
January-April 1974
June-August 1974
January-November 1976
January-October 1977

Regional Marine Resources Council:
Seminar on wetlands management, 1972
Seminar on dredging and dredge spoil disposal, 1974
Seminar on energy alternatives, 1974

Box 9

Hard clam industry of Long Island, 1973, undated
Marine fisheries management, 1977
"Guidelines for Marine Resources Planning and Policy on Long Island, March 1973"
Brookhaven Town Project Advisory Committee, 1972-1973
Brookhaven Town Natural Resources Committee Conservation, 1969-1970
Carmens River conservation, 1973-1974 (2 folders)
Conservation, Connetquot River, 1973-1975
Gardiners Island, 1972
Gardiners Island, wildlife notes and correspondence, 1971-1973
Gardiners Island, correspondence, 1973-1974, 1994
Gardiners Island, clippings (2 folders)

Box 10

Brookhaven Town Subject Files:
Long Island Conserver [newspaper], 1976
Ospreys--reports, correspondence, surveys, 1969-90


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