Environmental Legislation

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, is widely hailed as the father of the Conservationism which he made a central policy issue of his administration. Roosevelt made many Americans to question the myth of nature’s infinitude and made them realize that the nation’s dependency on them could also be its weakness if reckless and wasteful exploitation of these resources continued unabated. As President he created 5 National Parks, 4 Big game refuges, 51 National bird Reservations and the National Forest Service.

Roosevelt also encouraged the federal government’s acquisition and management of public lands and natural resources within them in an attempt to prevent private gain for the wealthy and those involved in industry. He believed that laws and their resolute enforcement were critical in using the power of the nation to preserve large tracts of wilderness and the game within them. Roosevelt called upon Americans to view nature as part of their history and identity as they lacked the long history and cultural traditions of European nations.

His view of nature as an economic resource, whilst at the same time having spiritual powers, was the ideological framework of his conservationism. 1. Another legacy of President Roosevelt is the Reclamation Act that was passed on June 17, 1902. Its aim was to appropriate receipts from the sale and disposal of public lands in certain states and territories. This Act created a Reclamation Service with technical expertise to construct monumental water projects to irrigate the West. These projects were to be financed by a Reclamation Fund.

President Richard Nixon viewed supporters of environmental legislation as either being pro private enterprise or not. Publicly and privately, he favored jobs and a strong economy and hence can be regarded as a fence sitter on this issue. Arguably the most important legislation of his presidency was passing of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act. It was passed in 1970 to set and enforce national pollution control standards. Also, the Clean Air Act of 1970 authorized the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to designate air quality regions throughout the country.

States were given primary responsibility for adopting and enforcing pollution control standards within those regions. Although originally passed in 1963, large and important amendments were made under Nixon’s tenure and this Act is today the main force behind control of air pollution in the United States. On the flip side, Nixon’s Veto of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 did not endear him to many. He cited that legislation which would continue efforts to raise water quality would be done, but not through extreme and needless overspending which did not serve the public interest.

He contended that there were better ways to get the job done. 3 The next President to be actively involved in environmental conservation was President Jimmy Carter who was the 39th President of the United States. After years of congressional debate, President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980. Often touted as the most significant land conservation measure in American history, this statute protected over 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska thus doubling the size of the country’s national park and refuge system and tripling the amount of land designated as wilderness.

It created 10 new national parks and increased the acreage of 3 existing ones. In the final months of his Presidency, President Carter managed to push through legislation that created a superfund to address environmental disasters. This legislation holds enterprises accountable for pollution and provides financial resources necessary for cleanup of areas contaminated by toxic materials. 2 Although President Reagan’s administration was conservative, major environmental legislation was still passed under his watch.

In 1987, President Reagan signed into law the Clean Water Amendments of 1987 which broadened the Clean Water’s reach to cover non-point source pollution and storm water. The amendments established the National Estuary Program to protect nationally significant estuaries which currently stand at 28. Equally important was Reagan ordering U. S. diplomats to negotiate a strong treaty phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals which resulted in the Montreal Protocol being ratified by the Senate in 1988 and entered into force in 1989. 4. The greatest environmental controversy during the Reagan Presidency came from his Interior Secretary, James Watt.

He offended environmentalists by pushing for more mineral exploration and development on federal lands. Watt also attracted criticism when he placed a moratorium on acquisition of more land for national parks and preserves and was going against what had been started earlier in the century by President Roosevelt. The revision of the Clean Air Act in 1990 is considered the most significant environmental legislation passed under President George Bush Sr. It requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and enforce regulations to protect the public from exposure to contaminants that are hazardous to human health.

The 1990 act proposed emissions trading and added provisions to address ozone depletion, acid rain and toxic air pollution. President Bush instituted an executive agency known as the Private-sector Council on Competitiveness which negotiated with the EPA director leading to favorable rulings e. g. redefinition of wetlands. His environmental legacy, however, can be said to have been blighted by his refusal to sign the Biodiversity treaty at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The treaty was aimed at limiting global carbon dioxide emissions. 5 President Clinton’s legacy on environmental legislation is widely hailed as a success.

For starters, he provided leadership in financing the world’s largest environmental fund by ensuring that the U. S. contributed more money to the fund than any country. In matters of legislation, he adopted the most stringent air pollution standards in U. S. history. These standards were aimed at preventing 15,000 premature deaths and 250,000 aggravated asthma cases. President Clinton also launched the greatest wetlands restoration endeavor in history while adding 70,000 acres to the Everglades National Park as part of the Water and Resources Development Act of 1996.

The Clinton Administration also proposed significant reductions in tailpipe emissions from cars. This rule came into effect in 2006-2007 and it requires that diesel contain less sulfur and run in cleaner engines. 6 President Bush succeeded in creating the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in 2006. This is the largest marine reserve to date and it was created in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This national monument comprises 340,000km2 and is home to 7,000 species of fish, birds and marine animals only specific to those islands.

7 The Bush administration has, however, been referred to in several sources as having had an anti-environmental agenda. It has been accused of gutting key sections of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts which have done more to protect the health of Americans than any other environmental legislation. The Bush administration also opened up millions of acres of wilderness including the nation’s most environmentally sensitive public lands to gas drilling, logging, mining and oil exploration. It also reversed a ban on commercial whaling that had been in effect since the Reagan era. 8 Sources Cited 1.

Theodore Roosevelt-Conservation as the Guardian of Democracy by Daniel Filler http://pantheon. cis. yale. edu/~thomast/essays/filler/filler. html 2. Jimmy Carter, public opinion, and the search for values, 1977-1981 By Gregory Paul Domin http://books. google. co. ke/books? id=6YA_miYRLGEC&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=Jimmy+Carter%27s+superfund+legislation&source=bl&ots=v20p1aw6lT&sig=hSHVB2ORkqaPodzK9OOxkbhKGVc&hl=en&ei=fQEATP-SNs-dOK2k1LkO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CDsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

3. The American Presidency Project http://webcache. googleusercontent. com/search? q=cache:UsdJkt2sfJQJ:www. presidency. ucsb. edu/ws/index. php%3Fpid%3D3634+Nixon%27s+veto+on+the+Federal+Water+Pollution+Control+Act+ammendments+of+1972&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ke 4. Timeline of Ronald Reagan’s Environmental Accomplishments http://webcache. googleusercontent. com/search? q=cache:La_whzo_QBoJ:www. climateconservative. org/TimelineofRonaldReaganEnvironmentalAccomplishments. html+Ronald+Reagan+environmental+legislation&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ke 5. Bush, George H. W. -41st President by Russell Renka Southeast Missouri State University http://webcache. googleusercontent. com/search? q=cache:AAXiNIyRjroJ:cstl-cla. semo. edu/renka/modern_presidents/ghw_bush.

htm+george+h+w+bush+environmental+policy&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ke 6. Record of Accomplishment http://www. clintonpresidentialcenter. org/the-administration/record-of-accomplishment 7. “The Nature Conservancy Applauds President Bush for Creating World’s Largest Marine Conservation Area in Hawaii”. The Nature Conservancy. http://www. nature. org/initiatives/marine/press/press2489. html. 8. Bush regime environmental record http://webcache. googleusercontent. com/search? q=cache:ReNQcMMf0LMJ:www. sourcewatch. org/index. php%3Ftitle%3DBush_regime_environmental_record+George+W+Bush+pro+environmental+legislation&cd=18&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ke