By testifying before congressional committees, working closely with the executive branch, and—after the Tax Reform Act of 1976—lobbying, the National Wildlife Federation has influenced the fate of many bills concerning wildlife and the environment.
Learn about the laws, which the Federation and its affiliates—working with numerous senators and representatives—helped secure.
Passed to fix Flint, Michigan’s water infrastructure and help restore the Great Lakes, Everglades, Delaware River Basin, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles River, among others. After nearly three years of dealing day in and day out with a public health and environmental crisis caused by lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, this bill sent needed aid to Flint to replace pipes and ensure clean drinking water, while also assisting other communities with unsafe levels of lead in their drinking water. Additionally, the bill authorized two key ecosystem restoration projects to protect and restore the Everglades and Los Angeles River as well as authorizing key regional restoration programs for the Delaware River Basin, Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe, and Long Island Sound.
Toxic chemicals have long been and remain one of the most significant threats to fish and wildlife populations. The accumulation of these chemicals in the food chain also affects subsistence and sport hunters and anglers who consume fish and game. Since 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was meant to protect people and the environment, including wildlife, from these harmful substances. However, this broken law was ineffective, and had had only a few improvements since its initial passing. After nearly three years of work on a bill to reform this law, on May 19 House and Senate negotiators announced a final agreement addressing many of these issues. After much back-and-forth, in a huge victory for the National Wildlife Federation and wildlife across the United States, Congress finally passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a bill modernizing and reforming the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
After a seven-year fight, President Obama issued a formal rejection of TransCanada’s permit application for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying the Alberta-to-Gulf of Mexico project threatened to undermine efforts to combat global warming. National Wildlife Federation members and supporters sent over 336,000 comments to the State Department urging the rejection of Keystone XL, part of a conservation coalition that delivered over two million comments opposing the pipeline. The National Wildlife Federation had been a leader in highlighting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline’s harmful impacts on wildlife and on American families, including the National Wildlife Federation’s 2011 uncovering of TransCanada documents showing the true purpose of their Keystone XL proposal was to bypass a glut of oil in America’s Midwest.
High-level representatives from nearly 200 countries at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP21) approved a monumental agreement to curb climate change. The “Paris Agreement” is the first comprehensive agreement to limit carbon pollution that applies to all countries, and seeks to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—a target that could avoid the worst impacts of climate change for people and wildlife.
In an important breakthrough in environmental education, Congress passed S. 1177, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as Every Student Succeeds Act). The Act is the federal government’s most significant education legislation, providing some $40 billion a year to support K-12 education in the United States, and will help millions of students access environmental and hands-on science education opportunities by authorizing $1.65 billion in funding for STEM education, including specifically environmental education for the first time.
After a five-year campaign led by the National Wildlife Federation, Congress approved and President Obama signed a $475 million appropriation for Great Lakes protection, the largest in history. This appropriation is the first year's funding of the GLRI, a $5 billion commitment from President Obama.
Working with conservation partners, the National Wildlife Federation helped secure language authorizing the Obama administration to quickly repeal damaging Endangered Species Act regulations put in place at the eleventh hour of the Bush administration. The regulations would have eliminated the role of expert biologists in reviewing and modifying federal activities that are harmful to threatened and endangered species and their habitats. The Obama Administration quickly utilized its newly-won authority and voided the Bush regulations.
Designated three new national parks, four national trails, three conservation areas, ten national heritage areas, and a national monument in nine different states. The act added over 1,100 miles to the Wild and Scenic River system and increased wilderness areas by roughly two million acres. The act also codified the National Landscape Conservation System as part of the Department of the Interior.
After more than sixty years of controversy, the USEPA applied a seldom used power under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act to veto the Army Corps of Engineers proposed Yazoo Backwater Pumps project in the Mississippi Delta region of the State of Mississippi. This primarily land drainage project threatened to damage or destroy more than 200,000 acres of Mississippi Delta wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests, among the richest areas of waterfowl habitat and biological diversity in North America. For more than three decades the National Wildlife Federation and affiliate Mississippi Wildlife Federation battled this ill-conceived project, joined by other National Wildlife Federation affiliates and conservation partners from across the nation.
Congress re-authorized the Great Lakes Legacy Act for another three years at $54 million per year. The program aims to clean up some of the most polluted sites around the region-so-called Areas of Concern-that suffer from a legacy of toxic pollution threatens the health of both people and wildlife. The next year the program received a significant boost in President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The National Wildlife Federation and the coalition it co-chairs and staffs were leaders in this effort.
Congress approved an eight-state Compact that rewrites the water laws of each of the eight states to protect the Great Lakes from diversions and unwise water use. The National Wildlife Federation led the development of the Compact language and the campaign for its passage.
The National Wildlife Federation developed the legislative concept and successfully lobbied for inclusion of a new program in the Farm Bill energy title, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. This program is helping landowners begin to grow biomass crops in a sustainable manner, for next generation bio-fuels and bio-energy. The National Wildlife Federation also helped to craft and win passage of the first-ever tax incentive for farmers to help recover threatened and endangered species. This new tax deduction for activities taken pursuant to Endangered Species Act recovery plans represented the first significant amendment to the ESA in 20 years, one that addresses a longstanding need to help those landowners who seek to go above and beyond the law to help endangered wildlife.
Created the Renewable Fuel Standard, which increased bio-fuel standards, and significantly strengthened vehicle fuel economy standards.
Set major policy reforms of Army Corps of Engineers water development programs sought by the National Wildlife Federation and conservation organizations by requiring outside independent reviews of plans for costly and controversial Corps projects, detailed fish and wildlife mitigation plans and annual monitoring and reporting of progress toward mitigation success for all Corps projects and revision and modernization of quarter-century old federal water project planning rules called the Principles and Guidelines. Authorized large-scale ecosystem restoration projects for wetlands of Coastal Louisiana and the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
Reauthorized and increased the grants program from the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1990. Also increased funding for National Fish and Wildlife Service regional projects proposed by states and tribes.
Expanded NFIP funding for flood hazard mitigation and voluntary buyouts of repetitively flooded and severe repetitively flooded residences and businesses.
The National Wildlife Federation was a major force in this renewal of the Farm Bill in securing the establishment of the Grasslands Reserve Program, a voluntary program to provide assistance to landowners in restoring, managing and protecting their grazing lands to prevent their conversion to other uses.
Established the state wildlife grants program, which provides funding to the states to implement comprehensive state wildlife conservation strategies (known today as Wildlife Action Plans). In response to this funding opportunity, for the first time in history, every state and territory prepared a detailed blueprint for the conservation of the full array of species and habitats within its boundaries. Today, these Action Plans provide a road map for building a national habitat network for future generations.
Authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in Florida, up to that point the largest ecosystem restoration project in the nation's history.
Established first broad authority for Corps of Engineers to develop and implement "non-structural" flood damage reduction projects, such as property buyouts and protection of open space to maintain or restore floodplain ecosystem functions. Program is known as the Flood Mitigation and Riverine Restoration program or "Challenge 21."
Reauthorized the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1990. The act enacted 32 recommendations from the 1995 Great Lakes Fishery Resources Restoration Study.
The National Wildlife Federation was a major proponent of this law to provide a unifying statement of purpose for the National Wildlife Refuge System and all of its individual refuges. Later, the National Wildlife Federation worked with organizations to secure annual appropriations to increase funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Established authority for Corps of Engineers to develop aquatic ecosystem restoration projects and directed study to develop a comprehensive plan for restoring, preserving and protecting the South Florida ecosystem.
The National Wildlife Federation played a leading role in the first significant reforms of the National Flood Insurance Program since 1973. Bill included establishment of a Flood Mitigation Assistance Program to provide NFIP funds for voluntary property buyouts and relocations of flood prone properties with associated lands dedicated as open space. In addition it permanently authorized the NFIP Community Rating System to recognize communities which exceed NFIP minimum requirements to reduce risk and protect natural floodplain values, strengthened measures to enforce flood insurance purchase where it is required and established the first federal task force on natural and beneficial functions of floodplains.
Amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to expand the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grants Program, which automatically provides states affected by Presidentially-declared natural disasters an additional 15 percent above FEMA's total disaster assistance costs. Funds are provided for hazard mitigation, particularly for voluntary acquisition and removal of flood damaged properties, with land dedicated and maintained in perpetuity for a uses compatible with open space, recreational, or wetlands management practices. After the Great Midwest Flood in 1993, more than 10,000 such damaged properties were removed from floodplains in nine Midwest states and owners were compensated at the pre-disaster fair-market values of buildings.
A National Wildlife Federation-led effort, the Act established the first new national standards for conserving water by improving the water efficiency of plumbing products that include showerheads, faucets, water closets, and urinals.
The act requires all damages to the Grand Canyon to be mitigated, while stipulating that all dam operations become secondary to the health of the Grand Canyon ecosystem.
The act includes many western water provisions to protect and improve environmental management:
The act established a Wildlife Conservation and Appreciation Fund to facilitate collaborative partnerships in conservation administered through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, supporting state fish and game agencies in their management and conservation of non-game species. The act also authorizes appropriations matching contributions from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, while also authorizing grants to the States for programs and projects to conserve non-game species.
Provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the authority to review the Central & South Florida Flood Control Project and develop a comprehensive plan to restore and preserve the south Florida ecosystem, enhance water supply and maintain flood protection.
Helped U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to form resource centers and "on the ground" restoration projects benefiting fish and wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes Basin.
Amended the Clean Air Act of 1963. Addressed issues of acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. The amendments also added provisions for a phase out of ozone depleting chemicals and further research and development.
Following the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound, the National Wildlife Federation lobbied hard for passage of this law, which improved the federal government's ability to provide funding and resources to oil spills. The OPA created the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, expanded the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, and increased noncompliance penalties and enforcement authorities of the Federal government.
The Wetlands Reserve Program was created to restore and protect wetland areas on farmlands. The program has become the largest and most successful wetland restoration program in the country.
These amendments extended the 1980 Superfund legislation by setting standards and establishing a timetable for the cleanup process and by addressing the human predicaments associated with toxic contamination. The community-right-to-know provision requires chemical companies to report everyday releases of hazardous substances and devise emergency plans for the community. Assessments of hazards to human health from contamination must be made and communicated to people in the region. State laws that had prevented victims from seeking compensation were nullified. The Superfund itself, reauthorized at $8.5 billion, is maintained by federal allocations and taxes levied on the chemical and petroleum industry and producers of hazardous wastes.
Before passage of this act, local beneficiaries of water projects did not contribute funds for their construction. By requiring that local as well as federal monies be used to fund construction, this legislation was intended to curb excessive spending as well as discourage environmentally damaging projects. The legislation also requires the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate damages to fish and wildlife habitat and gives them authority to remedy damages to habitat caused by projects built in the past.
Strong soil and water conservation provisions were included for the first time in a national farm bill that sets the country's agricultural policy. "Sodbuster" and "swampbuster" provisions deny federal benefits such as crop insurance, loans, and subsidies to farmers who plow, fill in, or otherwise destroy wetlands or grasslands, and make available federal funds to plant cover crops such as legumes and various grasses in fragile areas. In addition, a conservation reserve section was established, setting aside up to 40 million acres of highly erodible land.
Amendments to the Endangered Species Act in 1978 had a nearly crippling effect on the process of listing species as endangered or threatened. The amendments of 1982 speeded up the listing/delisting process by removing many of the burdensome requirements. They also removed economic or other extraneous considerations from the listing process, and extended the protection to include plants on federal land.
More than 600 miles of fragile beaches and barrier islands along the Atlantic and Gulf coast were designated as the Coastal Barrier Resource System. Federal subsidies are no longer granted for roads or bridges in these special areas.
In the event of any damaging release of a hazardous substance into the environment, the following parties may be held liable for any cleanup costs: the manufacturers and distributors of the substance, and the owners of waste disposal sites. If the responsible party refuses to cooperate, the EPA may use the Superfund for immediate cleanup costs and later sue the responsible parties for recovery of expenses. This fund is maintained by federal allocations and taxes levied on the chemical industry.
This act authorizes federal funding to be made available for the conservation of nongame wildlife. In so doing, it strives to encourage comprehensive conservation planning, encompassing both non-game and other wildlife. Unlike Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson, funding for the Nongame Act comes not from an excise tax but from general appropriations from the U.S. Treasury. As of the end of 1986, Congress had appropriated no funds and the Nongame Act has had no opportunity to live up to its great potential.
With passage of this act, the country's federal wildlife refuge and park systems were expanded by nearly 100 million acres and new management standards were set for refuges in the 49th state.
Eight new wilderness areas, covering almost two million acres, were added to the National Park System. Major additions were also made to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the National Scenic Trails System.
The law established a fishery conservation zone in ocean waters extending from the 3-mile state jurisdiction to the 200-mile federal jurisdiction and created eight regional councils to manage fish populations within the zone to prevent overfishing.
This act prohibits surface mining on unsuitable land and sets strict standards for reclamation and restoration of land that is suitable for surface mining.
An amendment to the 1974 Forest and Rangelands Renewable Resources Planning Act, this act prohibits clear-cutting in national forests and imposes detailed standards on Forest Service management. Public participation is required at every significant stage of administrative action.
Designed to prevent environmental degradation, this law directed EPA to require testing of all existing and new substances which may present an unreasonable risk to public health or the environment and, if necessary, to step in with regulations.
Signifying a major policy change, this act established management standards for federal lands under the jurisdiction of the BLM. The secretary of the interior is required to develop and maintain "land use plans which provide by tracts or areas for the use of public land" and for the protection of fish and wildlife habitat. In addition, "regulations and plans for the protection of public land areas of critical environmental concern" must be promptly developed.
To facilitate long range planning for the use of renewable resources within the National Forest Systems, five-year plans must be prepared to outline the protection, management, and development of land in the system.
With this act, the mandate to develop, maintain, and coordinate conservation programs for wildlife, fish, and game on military reservations is extended to include national forests, and public lands administered by the BLM and the Atomic Energy Commission. Such programs must include specific projects to improve habitat and must provide protection to threatened or endangered species.
This act created the endangered and threatened categories for species and extended the responsibility for conserving species to all federal agencies. The secretary of the interior was made responsible for updating and overseeing these efforts. In addition, the secretary was charged with insuring that federal activities neither jeopardize the continued existence of, nor destroy or modify critical habitat for, endangered or threatened species. With this act the United States ratified the CITES Treaty.
Signed by 80 nations, including the United States, the convention established a system of import/export regulation to prevent the commercial overexploitation of endangered or threatened plants and animals. Different levels of trade regulations were provided depending on the threatened status of any particular species and the effect trade would have on that species.
This act calls upon the federal government to establish a comprehensive, coordinated program to conserve ocean mammals and their products. It extends protection to individual population stocks as well as species or subspecies of marine mammals.
The EPA was given much greater authority to control pesticide use, including a two-category system of registering pesticides as intended for "general" or "restricted" use, with the latter to be used only by certified applicators.
This act prevents and limits the dumping of specific waste materials at sea and authorizes the secretary of commerce, with presidential approval, to designate marine sanctuaries and preserve or restore these areas for their conservation, ecological, or aesthetic values.
With this legislation, the U.S. was provided with a new, comprehensive, and forceful strategy not only to stop the pollution but also to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of lakes, streams, and surface waters. Under Section 404 of this act, the Army Corps of Engineers was given responsibility to oversee any discharge of dredged or fill material in navigable waters. (After a 1975 National Wildlife Federation lawsuit, this jurisdiction was extended to include wetlands and headwaters.)
This act was designed to "preserve, protect, develop, and, where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation's coastal zone."
This legislation granted 44 million acres of federal land and a $1 million cash settlement to Alaskan natives, paving the way for the construction of the 800-mile Alyeska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to the Gulf of Alaska. It also set the stage for the 1980 Alaska Lands Act by requiring the secretary of the interior to set aside over 80 million acres of Alaskan lands for Congress to designate as national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and wild and scenic rivers.
The secretary of agriculture was given the authority to enter into agreements with private landowners to protect wetlands in areas important to the nesting and breeding of waterfowl.
Authority conferred on the secretary of the interior by the 1966 Endangered Species Act was expanded; types of wildlife under protection are defined. The secretary of the interior may promulgate a list of wildlife "threatened with worldwide extinction" and prohibit importation of any animal appearing on this list.
All federal agencies must prepare, and make public, environmental impact statements with respect to any proposed legislation or other action that would significantly affect the quality of the environment.
A national trail system was established, comprising National Recreation Trails and National Scenic Trails.
Segments of seven major rivers in their free-flowing state were set aside for recreational and conservation purposes; provision was made to add to the system.
This act provides for administration and management of all areas in a national system of wildlife refuges, areas for the protection and conservation of fish and wildlife that are threatened with extinction, wildlife ranges, game ranges, wildlife management areas, and waterfowl production areas. A major stimulating factor for the refuge system was the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, otherwise known as the "duck stamp act."
The secretary of the interior is directed to carry out a land acquisition program to "conserve, protect, restore, and propagate selected species of native fish and wildlife" in the United States. Up to $15 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund can be used for acquisition.
Monies collected primarily from offshore oil and gas leases are used to fund a variety of state and federal recreational programs and to acquire recreational lands. Later amendments to the act increased the total annual expenditure, increased the proportion of the fund to be contributed by the federal government, and allowed the fund to be used to acquire areas needed for conserving endangered and threatened species of plants or animals.
The National Wilderness System was created out of wilderness, wild, and canoe areas of the national forests and provision was made for a review system for the inclusion of additional wilderness areas.
Acting on its own or at the request of a state, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (and now the Environmental Protection Agency) can initiate public hearings, conferences, and court proceedings to effect compliance with air pollution regulations.
An advanced, interest-free appropriation to the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Fund (to acquire refuges and waterfowl production areas) of up to $105 million for a seven-year period was authorized.
This act requires all U.S. military reservations to develop, maintain, and coordinate conservation programs for wildlife, fish, and game.
This act directs the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to investigate wildlife losses possibly caused by the application of pesticides and to research ways to reduce damage and loss.
This act split the Fish and Wildlife Service into two bureaus: Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, and Commercial Fisheries. In addition, the act authorizes the secretary of the interior to take steps "required for the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fishery and wildlife resources" through research, acquisition of refuge lands, and development of existing facilities.
This landmark legislation stipulates that federal grants may be given for the construction of water treatment plants. Originally limited to interstate waters, this act was extended in 1975 to include navigable waters.
An extension of the concept of the Pittman-Robertson Act, this act uses a general tax on sport fishing equipment to raise funds which are made available to states for the restoration and management of sport fisheries.
Under this legislation, if a federal agency possesses land it no longer needs but which has particular value for migratory birds, the agency can be reimbursed for transferring the land to the secretary of the interior or to a state agency for wildlife conservation.
Landmark legislation addressing toxic chemicals in the environment, FIFRA defines "economic poisons" to be any product "intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds" or other forms of life declared to be a pest. Plant regulators, defoliants, and desiccants are also included as economic poisons. This act requires that all such poisons be registered and labeled with a warning and instructions for use to prevent injury to nontarget organisms. This was the first time a federal law considered the effects of certain poisons on nontarget wildlife.
This act created a federal excise tax on firearms and provides matching funds to states for the acquisition, restoration, and maintenance of habitat for the management of wildlife and for research concerning wildlife management. To date, this act has spent $5 billion on state wildlife habitat projects.
One of the first influential pieces of environmental legislation in the country was enacted in 1913. The Migratory Bird Act gave the federal government full authority to protect migratory birds with today nearly 800 species listed for protection. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is granted the authority to set hunting seasons for waterfowl and other migratory birds based on species populations.
Introduced in 1900 by Congressman John Lacey, this bill is the cornerstone legislation protecting fish and game from illegal poaching. The first major federal legislation to protect wildlife in America, it bans interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken, possessed, or sold in violation of state or foreign law.
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