Dr. John Tanton is an environmental, population control, and immigration reform advocate from Petoskey, Michigan. He was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1934. Eleven years later, his family moved to a farm in Huron County. He attended Michigan State College and received his bachelor's degree in 1956. He received his M.D. in 1960 and his M.S. in ophthalmology in 1964, both from the University of Michigan.
Tanton has held leadership positions with many environmental groups and agencies. These include the Sierra Club, Michigan Natural Areas Council, Wilderness and Natural Areas Advisory Board, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Advisory Commission, Little Traverse Conservancy, and the Environmental Fund. He has also brought independent legal actions to prevent development of wilderness areas.
Tanton has also been active in population control. He was national president of Zero Population Growth, chairman of the Sierra Club's National Population Committee, founder of Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood Association, and has been active in Negative Population Growth, Inc., among other organizations.
In 1979, he created the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), of which he was chairman. FAIR seeks to end illegal immigration and to set a stable ceiling on legal immigration. In 1983, Tanton and Senator S. I. Hayakawa established an organization called U.S. English. It was created to combat bilingualism in the United States. He has been active in Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
Tanton has been active in conservative political causes. In 1989, he became co-founder of the American Alliance for Rights and Responsibilities (AARR), as a counter to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). AARR is currently the Center for the Community Interest (CCI).
Tanton also has taken upon social issues such as gambling, health reform, and social security reform, among others. Beginning 1987 Tanton has been active in the Bringing Out the Best in Ourselves project, that constitutes a series of small grants to local public and parochial schools.