Best of 2009 Conservation Successes

National Wildlife Federation looks back on the conservation achievements of the past year

12-30-2009 // Aileo Weinmann

2009 was a year of outstanding conservation successes, as reflected in the following topics of 2009’s Top 10 Conservation Successes. A summary of 2009 accomplishments specific to National Wildlife Federation’s work is also available.

1. Global Warming

  • EPA endangerment finding
    The Environmental Protection Agency made final its determination that global warming pollution constitutes a public danger and is virtually certain to act boldly under its authority under the Clean Air Act. The news came just as international climate talks began in Copenhagen.
  • U.S. House passes American Clean Energy and Security Act
    The legislation will establish a new U.S. energy policy that reduces dependence on foreign oil and builds a new, domestic clean technology manufacturing base to supply wind, solar, and other renewable energy. The bill also takes significant steps toward solving the global warming crisis by limiting carbon pollution..

2. Wildlife / Natural Resources

  • Interior Appropriations
    The House and Senate cleared a $32.2 billion Interior and Environment appropriations bill for the 2010 fiscal year. The $4.7 billion increase over 2009 funding levels will improve conservation efforts across the board and give agencies the resources they need to take on new climate change initiatives. President Obama signed the bill into law on October 30.
  • Endangered Species Act Delisting
    Brown pelican is removed from the endangered species list.
    This Endangered Species Act victory caps a century-long recovery that started under President Theodore Roosevelt.
    Obama Administration rolls back Bush-era ESA regulations
    The Obama administration fulfilled a campaign promise by rescinding last-minute Bush administration regulations that weakened the Endangered Species Act.

3. Restoration

  • Great Lakes
    The FY 2010 Interior Appropriations bill included $641 million to restore the nation’s Great Bodies of Water, including $475 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  • Coastal Louisiana Task Force
    The White House Council on Environmental Quality created a new federal interagency task force to coordinate the “economic and environmental resiliency” of Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast region.

4. White House / Obama Administration

  • Restoring scientific integrity
    Staff scientists and outside scientific advisors are determining standards based upon the health and scientific literature, rather than on political considerations.
  • White House engagement on Global Warming Action, Obama Goes to Copenhagen
    President Obama has made global warming action a top priority since the beginning of his administration, and headed to international climate negotiations in Copenhagen during the critical closing days of the summit, lending leadership to protect our children’s future from the urgent threat of climate change.
  • Presidential Appointments = Conservation/Climate “Dream Team”
  • Lisa Jackson, Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency
  • Carol Browner, Director of White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy
  • Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
  • Ken Salazar, Secretary of Interior
  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
  • Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State
  • Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • John P. Holdren, Director of White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

5.Clean Energy / Green Jobs 

  • Federal Stimulus Funding
    Secured an unprecedented $60 billion in clean energy investments in the 2009 economic stimulus bill, including funding for energy efficiency, low-income weatherization, modernization of the electrical grid, green jobs programs, and tax credits for renewable energy.
  • Incentives for Efficiency Upgrades
    The Obama Administration forged improved energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential appliances, including microwaves, kitchen ranges, dishwashers, light bulbs and other common appliances. Altogether, about two dozen new energy efficiency standards will be completed in the next few years.

6. Education / Connecting to Nature

  • Environmental Education / Literacy
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration education funding for environmental literacy programs and watershed education was increased to $22 million -- up $3.5 million from last year and more than double what it was three years ago. We achieved funding for the National Environmental Education Act program at EPA. Congress provided $9 million to fund the EPA’s Office of Environmental Education and the environmental education grants program.
  • Connecting to Nature
    As part of the President’s Summer of Service initiative, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a call to action for every adult to mentor a child outdoors this summer.

7. Transportation

  • Improved fuel standards
    The Obama administration detailed stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks and tougher rules on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Cash for Clunkers
    One of the year’s best economic success stories reflected American’s huge appetite for more fuel-efficient cars, with nearly 700,000 old cars traded in for new ones under the program. The average vehicle purchased under the program had fuel economy of 24.9 mpg, compared to an average of 15.8 mpg for vehicles being traded in -- an average fuel economy improvement of about 58 percent.

8. Land

  • Passage of Public Lands Omnibus Bill
    The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 will conserve critical public lands and waters, which provide important wildlife habitat and provide resources and recreation opportunities that drive local economies. The bill included protecting the first new system of conservation lands in the United States in more than 50 years through the permanent establishment of the 26 million acre National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).
  • Roadless Rule The Obama administration has sought to restore protections for roadless areas of our national forests – supporting the 2001 roadless rule in the courts and requiring Secretarial approval for any timber sale in a roadless area.

9. Water

  • Oceans
    President Obama forms Ocean Policy Task Force, which now working to implement a strong national ocean policy.
  • Modernizing Federal Water Policy
    The draft water resources planning guidance recently released by the Council on Environmental Quality represents a vital first step in modernizing our nation’s water policies to protect communities from global warming impacts and to plan for the nation’s water needs in the 21st century. A recent court decision ruling the Army Corps of Engineers liable for post-Katrina flooding was a major reminder why such an approach to water resources is necessary. In this case the court ruled that an ill-conceived and poorly maintained navigation channel acted as a hurricane funnel – unleashing a storm surge that flooded the Lower 9th Ward and others parts of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

10. Air

  • The Obama Administration’s EPA has been methodically restoring Clean Air Act protections by blocking implementation of or abandoning a number of Bush-era policies that would have allowed trading of toxic mercury and for industries to increase harmful levels of smog and soot pollution. The administration is moving forward with new rules that will dramatically reduce sulfur dioxide and soot pollution from power plants.
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