Natural Resources and Environmental Regulations
Professor David Terrell, Ph.D.
Warner Pacific College
June 30, 2010
Natural Resources and Environmental Regulations
As our population increases and our world becomes ever more interconnected we must protect our nations natural resources and plan for their sustainability for the future. One way we can manage this vital task is to implement environmental policies, laws, and regulations.
An environmental policy is a policy with concerns of human contact with the environment and regulates a natural resource or reduces contamination, upholds human welfare, or protects natural systems (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, p.58). For a policy to be successful we must have “input from science, ethics, and economics” (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, p.58). Science provides the data from the research and the analysis. Ethics and economics offer the reason or standard to access the degree and the character of the problem (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, p.58).
The environmental policy process has six steps. The first step is to identify the problem. Is a natural resource depleting? Or perhaps pollution is recognized in our water ways like the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. The second step to identify the causes of the problem. Turning to environmental scientists to gather the information and scrutinize all possible causes is the most effective way to accomplish the second step. The next step is to envision a solution. What are the pros and con’s of the solution. What impact will the solution have on other resources and quality of life of human’s? Is the solution economical and ethical? The first three steps must not be overlooked or rushed to create a valuable policy. The forth step is to get organized and prepare to present the policy. The fifth step is to lobby for the policy and finally ushering the policy into law (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, pp. 66-75).
Environmental policies and regulations have an impact on society as well as the environment. Early history of the United States the environmental policies were made to address land management issues and promote citizens to leave their eastern cities and settle to western territories. The government implemented the Homestead Act which provided people a way to achieve prosperity. The Homestead Act allowed the public to claim property for little money if they lived on the property for five years and cultivated the land (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, p. 64). The Timber Culture Act was also passed during this time and approved any citizen a area of land as long as they promised to cultivate the trees on it (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, p. 64).
The second movement of U.S. environmental policies tackled the impacts of the land management acts approved by mitigating the decrease in natural resources connected to the westward population migration. During this time society’s view of natural resources began to change instead of giving natural resources away they saved them by creating national parks, the national forest system, and wildlife refuges.
The third major environmental concern in the United States dealt with pollution. The industrial movement had created chaos on the environment in many ways: air pollution, water contamination, toxic chemicals, and waste were top priority for this generation and still are today. During the 1960’s and the 1970’s pollution was very obvious such as the Cuyahoga River any sighted person could see the waste in the water. Citizens were also awoken to the dangers they could not see such as the use of pesticides and industrial chemicals. The news of these hazards instilled the fact that everything in the environment is interrelated and one environmental harm dominoes into another.
Currently the United States has created standards and groups to protect our environment such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess, monitor environmental quality, and enforce standards of our natural resources (Withgott, J., & Bennan, S., 2008, p. 68). The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) is a program that evaluates the incident, amount, and outcome of chemical contaminants in water (USGS, 2005). Another program is the National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP) this group provides an aerial picture of the states to assess changes in land and vegetation (USGS, 2005). These are just a few environmental groups created to protect our natural resources.
Today the citizens of the United States are largely much more educated on the environmental issues and are facing different obstacles that were not recognized in past generations such as ethics and economics. Society’s knowledge has pushed the decision makers to take all ethical and moral concerns into consideration before making environmental laws and policies. Environmental problems must be solved by consulting whether or not it is economically sound or not. By assessing the environmental issue using ethical and economic guidelines citizens do not always agree whether it is necessary to act on a perceived environmental problem. Decision makers have to weave their way through special interest groups, lobbyists, and others to get informed information so they may make a policy that is well balanced and good for the environment and the welfare of human beings.
USGS. (2005). Assessing Our Natural Resources. Retrieved June 27, 2010, from http://www.usgs.gov/themes/factsheet/094-99/
Withgott, J., & Bennan, S. (2008). Environment: The science behind the stories (3rd ed.). New York. Pearson Benjamin Cummings.