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Happy Earth Day!

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, Nancy Sutley discusses the importance of protecting the environment now and for future generations.

Today, as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, I find myself thinking about some of my favorite childhood places, and how they continue to inspire me to work toward a healthier planet. 

Many of my fondest memories took place outside. I recall playing in my small backyard in Queens, NY, and sledding with friends in our many neighborhood parks. I also remember my family’s annual vacations to the beach or the mountains, and how I marveled at their beauty. Our outdoor spaces provide a sense of peace and add immeasurably to our quality of life. They give us a chance to experience nature and to be around wildlife, and they fuel our imaginations and our spirits. These places and experiences embolden our sense of duty to protect the environment and our planet from the threat of pollution.

The Obama Administration has taken great strides to keep our air and water clean, and understands that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. We have made a historic investment through the Recovery Act in clean energy that will create the jobs of tomorrow and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth. In March 2009, the President signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation. And just last Friday, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts that will help us build a community-centered 21st century conservation agenda that protects the many beautiful places and outdoor traditions of our great Nation from the ground up. We are developing recommendations for a national ocean policy to protect our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes; we are working to protect and restore Louisiana and Mississippi coastal ecosystems; we have renewed our commitment to restore the California Bay Delta and to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

And that’s just a snapshot of our efforts. But, while the Federal Government must and will play a role, we also need Americans to help lead. The story of the last four decades is about innovation. It’s about the American spirit of ingenuity that we called upon to answer the environmental and public health challenges of 40 years ago, and that will also meet the challenges of today. 

This Earth Day, we can all learn about the environmental issues of today, and how to take action in our own homes or communities. is a valuable resource where you can begin. Happy Earth Day!

Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality