Text excerpted from the book: PROTECTING THE PLANET-Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change (ISBN 978-1-63388-225-6)
Budd Titlow & Mariah Tinger
Fittingly, the very first federal action to arrive on the scene during the Seventies was the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—and along with it the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). While officially intended to be representative of the “US national policy promoting enhancement of the environment”, NEPA—in actuality—turned out to be something quite different. In fact, it quickly became a controversial vehicle for debating the pros and cons of “proposed federal actions that may or may not have significant negative or positive impacts on the quality of the natural or human environments.” Got it?
Well don’t feel bad, neither did most of the people who were hired by the federal government to conduct NEPA analyses and then write corresponding Environmental Impact Statements (EIS’s) summarizing the findings of these analyses. I (Budd) should know—I was one of those people!
I spent my first three years as a “Professional Environmental Scientist” trying to convince Congress to clarify exactly how an EIS was supposed to be written and how the findings should be determined and presented. By the way, NEPA is the law that brought us all the titanic—and often multi-year—EIS battles over such relatively obscure creatures as the snail darter, the furbish lousewort, zebra mussels, and oh so many more tantalizing federal foibles and fiascos.
Anyway, we digress … at least NEPA represented a legitimate effort on the part of Congress to embed some sort of environmental ethic and consciousness into the land development business in the United States. And this was—in fact—a big improvement over what previously had been required from an environmental analysis and evaluation standpoint—which was, pretty much—nothing at all!
Russell Train – The First Guru of CEQ
All of this Washington, DC level hoopla about environmental awareness and protection also brought another leading man to the forefront of the conservation movement. From the day that he first set foot on a Washington sidewalk, Russell Train was destined to be a bright star in the mixed metaphor affairs of politics, high finance, and natural resource conservation. Meticulous, dapper, and exquisitely mannered—even as a young boy—Train had the combined legal and business acumen to know how to get things done in DC and—wow—did he ever put those skills to work in for national environmental regulation and worldwide wildlife protection.
Born in Jamestown, Rhode Island in 1920, Train was raised in Washington where his father, a Rear Admiral in the US Navy, served as President Herbert Hoover’s Naval Aide. Educated at both Princeton and Columbia Universities, he started his career as a DC lawyer working in the US Tax Court but quickly realized he could create a niche for himself as an advocate for African wildlife—his first real love. So—in 1965—he resigned in mid-term and became president and chief attorney of the Conservation Foundation.
Train’s success as a conservation attorney was so great that he caught the eye of President-elect Richard Nixon who decided that his deft combination of innovative ideas and personal passions were exactly what was needed to capture the public’s burgeoning concerns—and votes—about environmental protection. Nixon plugged Train into all the right places and it was actually through Train’s advice that Nixon created both the CEQ—to review regulatory activities under NEPA—and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Once he became the first Chairman of CEQ, Train was off and running as a force to be reckoned with on the red carpets of Washington.
His work as head of the CEQ was so effective that Train soon had the moniker, The Father of NEPA, attached to his name. His policy of “look-before-you-leap” became the catch phrase for analyzing the potential impacts of major federal actions before building them. As CEQ Chairman, Train also earned the reputation for being the “founding father” of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Program.
After being appointed Administrator of the EPA in 1973, Train soon also became well known for creating ground-breaking laws and implementing effective enforcement of a host of ersatz rules and regulations. With the delegated power of the presidency firmly clinched in his fists, Train shaped the world’s first comprehensive programs for scrubbing the skies and waters of pollution while safeguarding US citizens from exposure to toxic chemicals.
After leaving government service in 1978, Train moved on to the next position where he soon earned another starring role as the first Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). During Trains’ time in leading the organization, the WWF grew from a small, relatively-unknown conservation group to a global force for conservation, consisting of $100-million-a-year global network of researchers and technical specialists, famed for its panda trademark.
Panda-adorned logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
For the remainder of his life, Train continued to receive numerous plaudits—from Chairman Emeritus of the WWF to the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President H.W. Bush in 1991. In 2003, Train published his memoir, Politics, Pollution, and Pandas, which is an excellent compendium on the birth and growth of US’s national interest in environmental issues.
“I felt strongly that environmental issues needed a sharp, cutting edge in government, one that had high visibility to the public … and this view finally prevailed.”
– Russell Train, Politics, Pollution, and Pandas
Russell Train’s primary organization building skills—in both the public and the private sectors—should be studied in depth by Climate Change leaders and activists. Successfully fostering a conservation cause first depends on having a cohesive, well-staffed, and financially solvent organization in place.
Author’s bio:For the past 50 years, professional ecologist and conservationist Budd Titlow has used his pen and camera to capture the awe and wonders of our natural world. His goal has always been to inspire others to both appreciate and enjoy what he sees. Now he has one main question: Can we save humankind’s place — within nature’s beauty — before it’s too late? Budd’s two latest books are dedicated to answering this perplexing dilemma. PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, a non-fiction book, examines whether we still have the environmental heroes among us — harking back to such past heroes as Audubon, Hemenway, Muir, Douglas, Leopold, Brower, Carson, and Meadows — needed to accomplish this goal. Next, using fact-filled and entertaining story-telling, his latest book — COMING FULL CIRCLE: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America — provides the answers we all seek and need.Having published five books, more than 500 photo-essays, and 5,000 photographs, Budd Titlow lives with his music educator wife, Debby, in San Diego, California.