Laws enacted include the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Resources Planning Act (1974), and the National Forest Management Act (1976). This series of legislation followed two additionalmandates handed down in the 1960's: the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 and the Wilderness Act of 1964.
Together, this legislation laid the groundwork for the regulatory standards applied today. Federal and state governments along with myriad citizen groups ensure that the nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes retain high water quality, plant and animal species remain viable, timber harvest is in balance with growth, impacts of activities on the environment are identified and mitigated, and wilderness, defined as an area where 'man himself is a visitor who does not remain', is preserved.
In 1900, approximately 75 percent of the southern Appalachian region was forested. By 1920, however, much of our forests had been heavily cut, burned, and abandoned. A conservation community organized and began to influence legislators on the need to assess, actively manage, and protect our natural resources. Their efforts resulted in the designation of parks and national forests around the region.Fifty years later, in the early 1970's, the concepts of 'sustained yield', 'resource conservation', and 'environmental science' again resonated with American citizens. During this period, the U.S. Congress passed a suite of legislation underscoring the importance of sustainable management of our nation's natural resources.
State, County, Local Framework
Counties and local municipalities develop a variety of regulations to protect citizens and natural resources. These statutes often regulate such activities as mountain ridge development, farmland preservation, high-impact land uses, property rights protections, flood damage prevention, zoning, and erosion and sediment control. The success of local land use regulations ultimately depends on public support for laws and regulations that prevent environmental degradation, e.g., steep slope and storm water management ordinances.