Legislative Victories - 1980s

1980 - Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (Alaska Lands Act) - With passage of this act, the country's federal wildlife refuge and park systems were expanded by nearly 100 million acres and new management standards were set for refuges in the 49th state.

1980 - Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (Nongame Act) - This act authorizes federal funding to be made available for the conservation of nongame wildlife. In so doing, it strives to encourage comprehensive conservation planning, encompassing both non-game and other wildlife. Unlike Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson, funding for the Nongame Act comes not from an excise tax but from general appropriations from the U.S. Treasury. As of the end of 1986, Congress had appropriated no funds and the Nongame Act has had no opportunity to live up to its great potential.

1980 - Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund) - In the event of any damaging release of a hazardous substance into the environment, the following parties may be held liable for any cleanup costs: the manufacturers and distributors of the substance, and the owners of waste disposal sites. If the responsible party refuses to cooperate, EPA may use the Superfund for immediate cleanup costs and later sue the responsible parties for recovery of expenses. This fund is maintained by federal allocations and taxes levied on the chemical industry.

1982 - Coastal Barrier Resources Act - More than 600 miles of fragile beaches and barrier islands along the Atlantic and Gulf coast were designated as the Coastal Barrier Resource System. Federal subsidies are no longer granted for roads or bridges in these special areas.

1982 - Endangered Species Act Amendments of 1982Amendments to the Endangered Species Act in 1978 had a nearly crippling effect on the process of listing species as endangered or threatened. The amendments of 1982 speeded up the listing/delisting process by removing many of the burdensome requirements. They also removed economic or other extraneous considerations from the listing process, and extended the protection to include plants on federal land.

1985 - Food Security Act (Farm Bill)Strong soil and water conservation provisions were included for the first time in a national farm bill that sets the country's agricultural policy. "Sodbuster" and "swampbuster" provisions deny federal benefits such as crop insurance, loans, and subsidies to farmers who plow, fill in, or otherwise destroy wetlands or grasslands, and make available federal funds to plant cover crops such as legumes and various grasses in fragile areas. In addition, a conservation reserve section was established, setting aside up to 40 million acres of highly erodible land.

1986 - Water Resources Development Act - Before passage of this act, local beneficiaries of water projects did not contribute funds for their construction. By requiring that local as well as federal monies be used to fund construction, this legislation was intended to curb excessive spending as well as discourage environmentally damaging projects. The legislation also requires the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate damages to fish and wildlife habitat and gives them authority to remedy damages to habitat caused by projects built in the past.

1986 - Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (Superfund Reauthorization) - These amendments extended the 1980 Superfund legislation by setting standards and establishing a timetable for the cleanup process and by addressing the human predicaments associated with toxic contamination. The community-right-to-know provision requires chemical companies to report everyday releases of hazardous substances and devise emergency plans for the community. Assessments of hazards to human health from contamination must be made and communicated to people in the region. State laws that had prevented victims from seeking compensation were nullified. The Superfund itself, reauthorized at $8.5 billion, is maintained by federal allocations and taxes levied on the chemical and petroleum industry and producers of hazardous wastes.


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