Not much to celebrate this Earth Day

Ringneck Marsh, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (photo by M. Davis)

Here’s a list that I hope future federal administrations and elected officials will keep in mind. It’s the growing roster of environmental actions that have taken place under the current presidency. Most of them are clearly aimed at limiting federal support for the environment, such as antipollution measures and efforts to curb climate change.

So far, the Trump administration:

•Has done as much as it can to cast doubt on the human role in climate change, and downplaying or just removing the term “climate change” in EPA policy documents

•Is working on a rollback of fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks

•Has suspended an Obama-era clean water regulation, asserting that it will craft a new version, intended to be friendlier to developers, farmers, and others with waterways running through properties they are using. It is also weakening regulations that impede the fossil fuel industry from dumping matter such as coal ash near sources of clean drinking water.

•Is continuing to try, with each budget, to cut programs that study and mitigate climate change and research renewable energy. Fortunately, these efforts have not been surviving the budget process. So far.

•Has twice tried to kill the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is helping the Niagara and Buffalo Rivers as well as the lakes, which provide fresh water for 40 million people in the US and Canada.

•Has declared that accidental/incidental bird deaths as a result of power lines, oil spills, and wind turbines no longer violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This decreases incentive for companies to consider steps that would protect wildlife.

•Has halted or suspended studies that look at health risks to those who live near coal sites.

•Is making moves with formerly protected areas like Bears Ears National Monument, which has been reduced in size by 85%. If fossil fuel extraction is in the mix, expect more depredations in protected areas.

There is both more and less to this. Some of these efforts can be stopped in Congress. Others might remain in the planning stages. But one thing is certain: don’t expect the environment to be a priority with this administration. By next year’s Earth Day, we might have even more significant—and damaging—policies.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Elizabeth, thanks for laying it out so clearly, your summary was incredibly helpful. I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe these days, and despairingly, one where I have no clear idea at this moment how to help effect significant change

  2. The part that gives me hope is the amount of people who are organizing and getting involved. This is one fight no one can afford to sit out. Join your local conservation group, write letters, protest, vote, buy ethical products from ethical companies, plant native plants, whatever you can do — every person that acts makes it harder for corporations and corrupt politicians to stomp all over the environment. But yes, this administration’s environmental record is horrific. 🙁

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