Presidents Preserving Nature and Protecting the Environment

Being the President of the United States is, of course, no easy task.  Over the decades, administrations have had different priorities based on the needs of the people.  Many presidents are considered “green”; going above and beyond to protect the amazing natural landscapes of this country and evaluate the environmental impact our current daily practices may have on future generations. 

Presidents' Week is the perfect time to reflect on the environmental milestones and achievements of our leaders:

Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909)

"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."

  • Often referred to as the “conservationist president”, Roosevelt popularized the ideas of good resource stewardship and respect for nature.
  • He used the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 to set aside 150 million acres of timberland as public domains.
  • Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, whose mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations”.
  • He created 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.

Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981)

“I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.”

  • Carter created the Department of Energy, hoping to establish a national energy policy that promoted clean and alternative fuels.
  • He installed solar panels on the White House and kept the thermostat at 68 to conserve energy.
  • In 1979, Carter implemented CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards that mandated fuel efficient cars.
  • He passed many important environmental laws, including:  Soil and Water Conservation Act, Endangered American Wilderness Act, and the Superfund Act.
  • After his presidency, Carter dedicated much of his time to humanitarian work, specifically helping Habitat for Humanity “go green” with their building practices.

Barack Obama (2009-2017)

“No challenge poses a greater threat to our children, our planet and future generations than climate change — and that no other country on Earth is better equipped to lead the world towards a solution.” 

  • Obama established the largest marine reserve in the world by expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) to include more than 490,000 square miles.  Nestled in the Pacific Ocean, these tiny island and atolls are home to many plants and animals that are not found anywhere else on the planet.  Commercial resource extraction is not permitted in the area.
  • He enacted an air pollution control strategy that would raise fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025.  The strategy is an attempt to improve the fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  It will save $1.7 trillion at the pump and decrease U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.   
  • He created America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and by November of 2011, projects were in place in all 50 U.S states.  The goals of the projects include enhancing recreational access and opportunities, engaging youth in conservation and the outdoors, and establishing green urban parks and community green spaces.