During his first State of the Union address, delivered in 1970, President Nixon designated the environment as the defining issue of the new decade. “The great question of the Seventies is…shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water,” he declared. In a divided political climate, Nixon went on to achieve bipartisan support to become the creator of modern environmental policy.

President Nixon’s consequential environmental record is surprising to many people. The Nixon administration initiated many of the most important, and enduring, environmental policies in American history including: the signing of the National Environmental Policy Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the signing of the Clean Air Act of 1970, the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the signing of the Endangered Species Act, the signing of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the creation of the Legacy of Parks program, which converted more than 80,000 acres of government property to recreational use in 642 new parks.  

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Nixon’s establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nixon Library unveiled its first fully-outdoor permanent exhibit, The President and the Planet, in December 2020. A visit lets you explore the consequential environmental achievements of the Nixon administration while experiencing the beauty of the Pat Nixon Gardens.

“Environmental protection represented, without doubt in my mind, the single most significant area of domestic policy accomplishment of the Nixon administration,” Russell Train, 2nd EPA Administrator & President of the World Wildlife Fund. Nixon made the environment healthier and safer and we continue to be the beneficiaries of his green legacy.

Watch an excerpt of the message on the environment President Nixon delivered to Congress on February 8, 1972: