Forest for trees

The Evolution of Environmental Policies in the United States

  • Jan 1, 1496

    Isabella is Colonized

    Isabella is Colonized
    The Spanish town of Isabella was one of the first European settlements in the New World; many of the settlers brought animals and grains from the Old World. These foreign species disrupted the area's ecosystem subltely, and other colonies did similarly.
  • Jan 1, 1530

    Les Morts de les Castors

    Les Morts de les Castors
    French "coureurs de bois" (beaver traders) and later English traders over hunted North American beavers damaging both the population and ecosystem. This happened during a time period when nature was seen as full of resources waiting to be exploited.
  • Rolfe's Tabacco Kills

    Rolfe's Tabacco Kills
    John Rolfe perfected the growth of tabacco, and introduced the idea of growing nutrient depleting cash crops, which would later ruin most of the Old South's soil as cotton rather than tabacco. This agricultural strategy promoted the destruction of its environment.
  • Hudson River School Established

    The Hudson River School specializes in landscape paintings. This new interest in capturing America's natural bounty reflected a change in the public view of the of nature.
  • Catlin's Westward Journey

    Catlin's Westward Journey
    Catlin suggested having national parks to protect the environment. Though the United States did not take action until much later, his statement shows the begining of a transition in the perception of nature from resource to bounty.
  • Introduction to the Industrial Revolution

    Introduction to the Industrial Revolution
    The Industrial Revolution increased the United States reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal. It dramatically increased pollution, which Americans were initially unaware of.
  • Yellowstone Park

    Yellowstone Park
    Yellowstone Park was the first national park. This government action shows the transition of responsiblities for preserving the environment from local institutions to the federal government.
  • Getting into the Gilded Age

    Getting into the Gilded Age
    The Gilded Age expanded the United States economy considerably, but also increased the exploitation of natural resources with little-to-no federal interference. This shows the trend of laissez faire economics leaking into other areas of government regulation.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society

    Wildlife Conservation Society
    This organization was created to protected wildlife, promote zoology, and create a first-class zoo. This organization helped further the understanding of the environment by embracing zoology.
  • Inland Waterway Commission

    Inland Waterway Commission
    The Inland Waterway Commission was created to study the current transportation crisis, and pollution's effects on water and aquatic life. This movement showed a transition back to environmental concern under President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • National Conservation Commission

    National Conservation Commission
    The National Conservation Commission focused on preserving America's natural resources. It shows a shift in policy towards modern conservation ideals.
  • National Parks Service

    National Parks Service
    It was established to govern and better protect the already existing national parks. This entity centralized the power and responsibility of protecting nature, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the conservation movement.
  • Roaring Twenties Roll Through

    Roaring Twenties Roll Through
    The Roaring Twenties were characterized by great economic prosperity; however, the earlier progressive era reforms, including environmentally focused ones, were left in the dust during this booming period of consumerism.
  • The Donora Smog

    The Donora Smog
    Factories nearby created smog that cover the town of Donora for five days; it sickened and killed many people. It was one of the most dramatic examples of dangerous pollution and helped inspire change in the future environmental policies.
  • Silent Spring

    Silent Spring
    Silent Spring is a book by natural historian Racheal Carson that outlined the various dangers of DDT. This book increased public awareness of the dangers of pollution and contributed to the Earth Day movement later.
  • Earth Day

    Earth Day
    On April 22, 1970, citizens gathered in major cities to protest the environmental hazards that were so prevalent then. This was an introduction to political activism for environmental policies.
  • Establishment of the EPA

    Establishment of the EPA
    The Environmental Protection Agency is a government entity that can create and enforce regulations designed to protect and preserve the environment. Its creation emphasized a shift in power and responsiblity in environmental protection towards the federal government.
  • Clean Air Act

    Clean Air Act
    The Clean Air Act created the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to regulate air pollution, but more importantly it applied for improvements in science and technology by requiring regular updates. This farsighted approach helped improve the effectiveness of the conservation movement.
  • The Oil Shock

    The Oil Shock
    In the late seventies OPEC reduce shipments and created a massive panic in the United States. This crisis took attention away from evironmental protection as it shifted to fuel conservation.
  • Deepwater Horizon Spill

    Deepwater Horizon Spill
    The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and gushed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for days. It was one of the worst oil spills ever and contaminated and poisoned much of the wild life in the area.