Environmental Protection


1835 Ralph Waldo Emerson writes essay "Nature."


1865 Frederick Law

Olmsted advocates preservation of Yosemite.

1872 The world's first national park, Yellowstone, is established.

1892 John Muir founds the Sierra Club.

1905 U.S. Forest Service is established under Theodore Roosevelt.

1916 National Park Service is established under Woodrow Wilson.

1962 Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring.

1967 Congress passes Clean Air Act.

1968 Paul Ehrlich publishes The

Population Bomb.

1970 The Environemntal Protection Agency is established, and the first Earth Day is celebrated.

2002 The World Summit on Sustainable Development occurs.

Throughout U.S. history, people have demonstrated and written about their concern for the environment. Thousands of citizens have tried to stop pollution, promote public health, and preserve America's natural assets. Prompted largely by a few individuals and events, environmental awareness has increased over the decades.

In 1835, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the essay "Nature" and thus began a tradition of writing about nature. Henry D. Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and others continued this literary tradition. These and other public figures drew attention to the value of ecosystems.

In 1865, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (best known for designing New York's Central Park) submitted a report on preserving Yosemite Valley in California. This was the first justification for public preservation and management of natural areas that was based on the areas' value to humans. Soon after, the U.S. government established Yellowstone National Park and thus began the national park system.

Scottish-born naturalist and writer John Muir advocated for preserving western lands as wilderness. He founded the first major environmental organization, the Sierra Club, in San Francisco in 1892. This group was and continues to be dedicated to the preservation of wilderness and natural areas.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt created the first National Bird Preserve on Pelican Island, Florida. This was the start of the National Wildlife Refuge system. He also established the U.S. Forest Service in 1905. By 1909, the Roosevelt administration had created 42 million acres of national forests and 53 national wildlife refuges. In 1916, the National Park Service was established with 40 national parks and monuments.

In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson published a landmark book, Silent Spring. The book warned people about the dangers of the increasing use of toxic pesticides, such as DDT. In 1968, Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich warned of the hazards of rapid population growth with his book, The Population Bomb. These books contributed to a surge of environmental awareness in the United States.

In 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to enforce new environmental policies, such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. The first Earth Day was celebrated internationally. The Endangered Species Act became law in 1973.

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development met in South Africa. Leaders there agreed that the future of human survival will depend on an international commitment to work together to protect Earth's ecosystems.


1. Describe the role of literature in the environmental movement.

2. Applying Concepts What environmental issues affect your life right now?

3. Conducting Research Use the Web site below to create a timetable of the history of U.S. environmental laws.

www.scilinks.org Topic: Environmental Law

Keyword: HM60527

2002 The World Summit on Sustainable Development occurs.

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