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Environmental Protection

  • Prior to European Colonization: Native Americans

    Prior to European Colonization: Native Americans
    Before the landing of Columbus and later the arrival of the Puritans, the Native Americans inhabited the continent of North America. They lived as one with the environment, cherishing and worshipping the earth. They used every part of the animals they hunted and cultivated crops by means of irrigation. In these ways, they protected the environment.
  • Period: to

    Environmental Protection

    Since the colonization of the North American continent and especially the Industrial Revolution, man has continuously destroyed the environment through poor farming techniques and techology. However, efforts to undo this destruction were especially evident in the 1900's with the "Decade of Environmental Protection" in the 1970's. Using the technology that once threatened the environment, The U.S. has now begun to try to protect it.
  • Yellowstone National Park

    Yellowstone National Park
    Yellowstone National Park, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant, became the world's first national park. One of its most prominent features is the geyser Old Faithful.
  • Desert Land Act of 1877

    Desert Land Act of 1877
    Under this Act, the federal government sold arid land cheaply to settlers who promised to irrigate the soil within three years. In 1984, a similar policy, the Carey Act, was passed.
  • Forest Reserve Act of 1891

    Forest Reserve Act of 1891
    This Act granted the president the authority to set aside public forests as national parks and other reserves. Under this law, around forty-six million acres of trees were saved from the lumber companies during the 1890's.
  • Sierra Club

    Sierra Club
    Founded by John Muir, the Sierra Club sought to protect the wild places of America. Today, the Sierra Club exists as an organization whose goals also include finding alternate energy sources to combat global warming.
  • Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899

    Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
    Also known as the Refuse Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 is one of the oldest federal environmental laws in the United States. This Act made it a misdemeanor to dispose any wastes into navigable waters without a permit.
  • Lacey Act of 1900

    Lacey Act of 1900
    In response to the decreasing populations of game species due to illegal hunting, this law especially targeted poaching. Passed by President McKinley, the Lacey Act prohibited trade in wildlife, game, fish, and plants that have been illegally transported or taken.
  • Newlands Act of 1902

    Newlands Act of 1902
    Similar to the Desert Land Act of 1877, the Newlands Act also promoted irrigation in the West. In addition, this Act also allowed for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam, which not only aids irrigation and flood control, but also generates hydroelectric power.
  • National Park Service Organic Act

    National Park Service Organic Act
    This Act established the National Park Service, a federal organization that manages all national parks and many national monuments. Today, it oversees fifty eight national parks in the United States.
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

    Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
    This law prohibited the capture and hunting of birds listed as "migratory birds." These birds include the bald eagle, Canadian goose, mourning dove, which are among nearly eight hundred different species of "migratory birds" today.

    The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act was the first legislation passed that regulated the use of pesticides on crops and plants. This law addressed many of the environmental and biological health issues ignored by the the Federal Insecticide Act of 1910.
  • Air Pollution Control Act of 1955

    Air Pollution Control Act of 1955
    This Act was the first U.S. law passed that acknowledged the problem of air pollution. It allowed the federal government to research ways to mitigate air pollution, resulting in much information gathered about fuel emissions. Regulations would come nearly ten years later with the Clean Air Act.
  • Clean Air Act

    Clean Air Act
    As the name suggests, this Act was originally intended to regulate and reduce air pollution. After several expansions and amendments throughout the 1990, it now also addresses other concerns such as acid rain, ozone depletion, and toxic air pollution.
  • Wilderness Act

    Wilderness Act
    Written by Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society, this Act legally defined the word "wilderness" as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." After this law was passed by President Johnson, around nine million acres of "wilderness" were protected.
  • Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act

    Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act
    As an industrial society that relied, and still relies heavily upon automobiles for transportation, this Act is a monumental one in terms of its benefits for the environment. This amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1963 set the first federal emissions standards for vehicles. This law helped to improve air quality drastically within even the first couple of years.
  • National Environmental Policy Act

    National Environmental Policy Act
    Often coined as the "Magna Carta" of environmental protection, this passage of this Act marked the beginning of the "Environmental Decade" of the 1970's. It promoted the general enhancement of the environment and set up requirements for all federal agencies to provide Environmental Assessments, or statements detailing the environmental impact of federal actions, for all federal maneuvers.
  • Environmental Protection Agency

    Environmental Protection Agency
    The EPA, established by President Nixon, is a government agency that is responsible for both public and environmental health. Today, it administers many of the other programs mentioned, including the regulation of pesticides, air quality, and water pollution.
  • Clean Water Act

    Clean Water Act
    This is the primary federal law that governs water pollution. Having been amended several times since 1972, it has attempted to stop the large disposal of toxic wastes into water and to even make surface water suitable for recreation.
  • Endangered Species Act

    Endangered Species Act
    As the name suggests, this law, passed by Nixon, specifically sought to protect species from the threat of extinction. Such species included bald eagle, whooping crane, and grizzly bear.
  • Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977

    Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977
    As the main law that regulates coal mining in the United States, the SMCRA created two programs that not only regulate active but also abandoned mines. It was passed as a reponse to concerns about strip mining, and it also created the Office of Surface Mining, which aids in these regulatory efforts.
  • Superfund

    The Superfund, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, mainly sought to clean up sites endangering public health or the environment. It also authorized the EPA to not only identify those responsible for the sites contaminated by hazardous substances but also force them to clean up these sites.
  • Nuclear Waste Policy Act

    Nuclear Waste Policy Act
    This Act was the first legislation passed that even attempted to regulate the disposal of nuclear wastes. It created a timetable, a procedure, as well as a permanent underground storehouse for these radioactive materials.
  • Oil Pollution Act

    Oil Pollution Act
    In an attempt to mitigate the effects of future oil spills, this Act mandated companies to have emergency plans in case such environmental disasters. It also prevented vessels that have a history of terrible oil spills from operating again in Prince William Sound near Alaska.
  • North American Free Trade Agreement

    North American Free Trade Agreement
    The NAFTA also included the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. This agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada detailed the cooperation between the three countries in matters concerning the conservation and protection of the environment. It also established the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
  • Healthy Forests Initiatve

    Healthy Forests Initiatve
    This law was President George W. Bush's response to the forest fires of the summer of 2002. This law sought to improve forest fire fighting, eliminate hazardous fuels in forests, and establish fuelbreaks.