Silent Spring: America Listens 

1940 – 1980

As the world population soared to a new high of 3 billion people, there was a strong push to spread the message of conservation and environmental protection to a larger audience. Books and films in popular culture helped the cause, as did the threat of environmental disasters like the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and the nuclear scare at Three Mile Island in 1979. A wealth of legislation—including the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, and Clean Water Act—supported the cause.
Rachel Carson

Five-year old Rachel Carson reading to her dog.


BALD EAGLE ACT: Congress passes Bald Eagle Act to protect the national symbol.  Learn more.

FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE: United States Fish and Wildlife Service is formed by combining the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey.  Learn more.


DDT EFFECTS: Leo K. Couch at USFWS observes negative effects of DDT on forested land.  Learn more.

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT: Bureau of Land Management is established within Department of the Interior to manage public lands.  Learn more.


NATURE FILMS: Walt Disney’s “True Life Adventures” begin.  Learn more.


SAND COUNTY ALMANAC: Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold’s seminal book, defines a Land Ethic. Learn more.


ECHO PARK DAM: Echo Park Dam is deleted from the upper Colorado River Storage Project.  Learn more.


3 BILLION HUMANS: The world population reaches 3 billion.  Learn more.

BROWN PELICAN: The brown pelican is nearly extirpated in California and Louisiana.  Learn more.

COOPERATIVE RESEARCH AND TRAINING ACT: The Cooperative Research and Training Act establishes a system of Fish & Wildlife Service “Coop” Units at land grant colleges to train wildlife managers and scientists.  Learn more.


SILENT SPRING: Silent Spring is published by Rachel Carson, a former USFWS aquatic biologist.  Learn more.

WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON CONSERVATION: President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall host the White House Conference on Conservation.  Learn more.


WILDERNESS ACT: Wilderness Act establishes the National Wilderness Preservation System.  Learn more.


ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT: Public concern for loss of species prompts Congress to pass a limited Endangered Species Act authorizing Secretary to maintain a list of endangered species in the U.S., conduct research on them, or acquire limited lands for their conservation.  Learn more.


WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT: The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is passed.  Learn more.

GRAND CANYON DAMS DEFEATED: Proposed dams on the Grand Canyon are defeated.  Learn more.

APOLLO 8 MISSION: The first manned flight to circle the moon produces dramatic photographs of “spaceship earth.”   Learn more.


SANTA BARBARA OIL SPILL: A Santa Barbara, California oil spill dramatizes the problem of pollution.  Learn more.

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: Friends of the Earth founded by David R. Brower.  Learn more.

GREENPEACE: Greenpeace is organized.  Learn more.


NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT: NEPA requires all Federal agencies to evaluate the impact of their major projects upon the quality of the human environment.  Learn more.

EARTH DAY: First “Earth Day” is celebrated on April 22.  Learn more.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: William D. Ruckelshaus serves as the first head of the EPA under President Richard Nixon.  Learn more.

WHALES ENDANGERED: Seven species of Great Whales are added to the Foreign Endangered Species List and importation of whale products is banned.  Learn more.


MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTION ACT: The Marine Mammal Protection Act is passed.  Learn more.

DDT BAN: First ban on the use of DDT in United States.  Learn more.

LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS: League of Conservation Voters is organized.  Learn more.

CLEAN WATER ACT: The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) is passed.  Learn more.

STOCKHOLM CONFERENCE: United Nations Conference on the Human Environment is held at Stockholm.  Learn more.

JAGUAR ENDANGERED: The jaguar is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act.  Learn more.


CITES NEGOTIATION: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is negotiated by 88 nations, regulating international trade in certain wildlife and establishing an international network of governmental agencies involved in wildlife conservation.  Learn more.

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT REPLACED: This replacement of the 1969 Act covers plants as well as species, subspecies, and populations of animals worldwide.  Learn more.

ALASKA PIPELINE: Congress authorizes construction of an 800-mile oil pipeline across Alaska to Prudhoe Bay.   Learn more.


LOVE CANAL: President Jimmy Carter declares a national state of emergency for the Love Canal area.  Learn more.

TELLICO DAM CONTROVERSY: Threats to the survival of the endangered snail darter forces detailed scrutiny of a nearly completed, federally funded dam.  Learn more about the Tellico Dam Controversy.  Learn more about the snail darter