Train, Russell Eroll (1920 – ) American Environmentalist

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Russell Eroll Train (1920 )
American environmentalist

Concern about environmental issues is a relatively recent phenomenon worldwide. Until the 1960s, citizens were not interested in air and water pollution , waste disposal, and wetlands destruction.

An important figure in bringing these issues to public attention was Russell Eroll Train. He was born in Jamestown, Rhode Island, on June 4, 1920, the son of a rear admiral in the United States Navy. He attended St. Alban's School and Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1941. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, Train entered Columbia Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1948.

Train's early career suggested that he would follow a somewhat traditional life of government service. He took a job as counsel to the Congressional Joint Committee on Revenue and Taxation in 1948 and five years later, became clerk of the House Ways and Means Committee. In 1957, Train was appointed a judge on the Tax Court of the United States.

This pattern was disrupted, however, because of Train's interest in conservation programs. In 1961, he founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation and became its first head. He gradually began to spend more time on conservation activities and finally resigned his judgeship to become president of the Conservation Foundation.

Train's first environmental-related government appointment came in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson asked him to serve on the National Water Commission. The election of Republican Richard Nixon late that year did not end Train's career of government service, but instead provided him with even more opportunities. One of Nixon's first actions after the presidential election was his appointment of a 20-member inter-governmental task force on natural resources and the environment . The task force's report criticized the government's failure to fund anti-pollution programs adequately, and it recommended the appointment of a special advisor to the President on environmental matters.

In January 1969, Nixon offered Train another assignment. The President had been sharply criticized by environmentalists for his appointment of Alaska Governor Walter J. Hickel as Secretary of the Interior. To blunt that criticism, Nixon chose Train to serve as Under Secretary of the Interior, an appointment widely praised by environmental groups. In his new position, Train was faced with a number of difficult and controversial environmental issues, the most important of which were the proposed Trans-Alaska pipeline project and the huge new airport planned for construction in Florida's Everglades National Park . When Congress created the Council on Environmental Quality in 1970 (largely as a result of Train's urging), he was appointed chairman by President Nixon. The Council's first report identified the most important critical environmental problems facing the nation and encouraged the development of a "strong and consistent federal policy" to deal with these problems.

Train reached the pinnacle of his career in September 1973, when he was appointed administrator of the federal government's primary environmental agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the three and a half years he served in this post, he frequently disagreed with the President who had appointed him. He often felt that Nixon's administration tried to prevent the enforcement of environmental laws passed by Congress. Some of his most difficult battles involved energy issues. While the administration preferred a laissez-faire approach in which the marketplace controlled energy use and prices, Train argued for more controls that would help conserve energy resources and reduce air and water pollution .

With the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, Train's tenure in office was limited. He resigned his position at EPA in March 1977 and returned to the Conservation Foundation.

[David E. Newton ]



Schoenbaum, E. W. "Russell E. Train." In Political Profiles. New York: Facts on File, 1979.


Durham, M. S. "Nice Guy in a Mean Job." Audubon (January 1974): 97104.