Generations of Americans have benefited from the nation’s legacy of leadership in conservation and environmental laws, which should be upheld and enhanced.
Foundational Laws for Lands, Waters and Air in the United States
Environmental laws adopted over the last five decades in the United States have dramatically improved the quality of the nation’s air and water, reduced the public’s exposure to harmful chemicals, given the public a greater voice in government decisions and conserved fish, wildlife and other natural resources.
Generations of Americans have benefited from this legacy of leadership in environmental protection. However, these gains have not been free of controversy. Environmental regulation is complex, sometimes burdensome for regulated groups and, increasingly, the focus of intense partisan debate.
The administration and Congress may consider a range of proposals that could alter the key elements of the nation’s environmental laws. The critical challenge is to identify foundational environmental and conservation laws that merit The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) strongest defense while at the same time being open to ideas that allow environmental laws and regulations to evolve in response to changing national needs and public views. These laws and their implementing regulations provide the foundations, incentives, protections or other provisions that support TNC’s conservation mission.
Key Challenge: Upholding and Enhancing Laws for Future Generations
TNC is working to uphold the foundational laws, regulations and other legal provisions that underpin basic environmental and conservation values while also identifying and supporting efforts to improve relevant processes and outcomes.
To meet this challenge, TNC will weigh how a policy enhances or undermines the shared strengths of core environmental laws. TNC will continue its role as a leading advocate for federal and state funding to support implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations across the United States.
Foundational Environmental and Conservation Laws:
- Antiquities Act
- Endangered Species Act
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- Land and Water Conservation Fund
- National Environmental Policy Act
Strengths of U.S. Environmental Laws
Though some environmental and conservation laws date back more than 100 years, increasingly these laws and associated regulations share several common themes that are critical to their effectiveness:
While U.S. environmental laws and statutes have made profound contributions to the health and safety of people; the protection of lands, waters, oceans and wildlife; and the enhancement of science, their implementation has also been selectively criticized.
TNC is focused on working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our foundational laws. This framework of laws is a critical part of the ongoing work within the Biden administration to implement the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act and advance their conservation goals through the America the Beautiful initiative.
Potential Enhancements to U.S. Environmental Laws
We should instead focus our efforts on strengthening these laws by doing the following: