Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Council on Environmental Quality


As his first act of 1970, Richard Nixon created the Council on Environmental Quality. He said the 1970s had to be the time when America reclaimed its air and water purity to improve the environment. He said, “It is now or never.” On this date in 1970 he named the first three members of the Council. Undersecretary of the Interior Russell Train was named as chairman. Nixon also appointed Richard Cahn and Gordon McDonald, two men with strong environmental backgrounds.

There were many federal agencies at the time that affected the environment. Nixon saw the Council on Environmental Quality as a way to coordinate the various federal programs. It would ensure that all federal activities took the environment into consideration. Members of the Council would also help the President prepare an annual environmental quality report.

In July, 2005, scientists for the council spent five days in North Dakota studying fish pathogens in Devil’s Lake. The Council felt there was a gap in knowledge about the aquatic life in the lake. The survey was a collaborative process that involved areas possibly affected by North Dakota’s operation of a Devils Lake outlet. These jurisdictions included North Dakota, Minnesota, the Province of Manitoba, and the federal governments of the United States and Canada. The survey included plants, invertebrates, and fish. Of particular interest were the flowering rush, zebra mussels, the rusty crayfish, and the striped bass. Samples were collected from July 26th to July 30th.

The summary of the report cautioned that limitations of the study must be recognized when evaluating the results and making decisions. The conclusion was that the survey was insufficient to fill the gaps in knowledge of Devils Lake and how the downstream areas would be affected by releasing its waters. The Council was, however, confident that the collaborative effort had improved knowledge about the biology of Devils Lake.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Bismarck Tribune. “Nixon Appoints 3 to New Council On Environment.” 29 January, 1970.

White House Archives. Final Report: Biota Survey for Devils Lake, ND. Accessed 17 December, 2014.

The White House. Accessed 18 December, 2014.