The Nixon Environmental Record: A Mixed Picture
CHARLES S. WARREN
The administration of Richard Nixon is not generally remembered as one that stood for strong environmental protection, and certainly protection of the environment was not a major interest of that administration. However, tremendous progress was made during the administration in attempting to clean up the air and water and in raising the public's consciousness with regard to the issue of environmental protection. Following is a look at the major environmental developments of the late 1960s and early 1970s and an assessment of the role of the Nixon Administration in those developments.
There has long been a conservation movement in the United States, reaching back into the nineteenth century. This movement was mainly concerned about wilderness and wildlife issues and was responsible for the establishment of many of our great national parks and wilderness areas. The names of Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, John James Audubon, and Gifford Pinchot figure prominently in the history of that conservation movement.
However, the modern environmental movement usually traces its roots to Rachel Carson book Silent Spring, which was published in 1962 and dramatically called attention to the dangers of the misuse of pesticides such as DDT in our environment. In 1967, an environmental group called the Environmental Defense Fund was founded in New York to fight for the ban of DDT, and soon other groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, were formed to fight for strengthened laws and greater regulatory efforts by the federal and state governments. The greatest public manifestation of the new environmental movement occurred on April 22, 1970, when Earth Day was celebrated all over the country with rallies, teach-ins, and cleanup efforts in many of our nation's largest cities. The Nixon Administration, which took office on January 20, 1969, was