The League’s History

The League’s 1956-1958 water resources study was the basis for action on a broad range of resource management issues. By 1958, the League had taken a position that, as rephrased and expanded in 1960, has formed one of two foundations for League action on water ever since. The key concept is a strong federal role in formulating national policies and procedures.

The issue of water management led the League toward later interrelated positions on air pollution, solid waste disposal and land use, all focused on management policies to protect natural resources.

In 1970 the League recognized the need for federal control of air pollution and adopted a position for control of air emissions. The 1970 Convention also authorized a study of solid waste disposal, which focused League attention on reuse and recycling.

In 1972, Convention delegates voted to “evaluate land-use policies and procedures and their relationship to human needs, population trends and ecological and socioeconomic factors.” The three-year land-use study focused on achieving optimum balance between human needs and environmental quality. Members agreed in 1975 that land ownership implies responsibilities of stewardship and consideration of public and private rights. They concluded that every level of government should share responsibility for land planning and management, and that federal policies should enhance the capabilities of other levels.

Although efforts in 1975 to pass comprehensive land-use legislation failed, the League has successfully supported more specialized land-use laws—notably, coastal-zone planning and strip-mining controls.

Since 1982 most action on land use issues has been at the state and local levels. Many Leagues work on such issues as floodplain management, coastal-zone management, wetlands protection, open-space preservation, facility siting, transportation, wilderness designations and offshore energy development.

In the 1980s, the LWVUS lobbied for reauthorization and strengthening of the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program, which provides federal funds for planning at the state level. The League also supports the Coastal Barrier Resources System, legislation that would eliminate federal flood insurance subsidies to barrier is-lands and other coastal areas subject to frequent storm action.

In 1990, the League provided testimony on Federal Reclamation Policy in support of legislation to eliminate abuses and close loopholes in the Reclamation Reform Act of 1982. Specifically, the League supported action to ensure compliance with the acreage limitations of the act and to reduce water subsidies that are uneconomical and environmentally destructive. In 1992, the League supported broad reform of the National Flood Insurance Program to increase enrollment and encourage risk management practices to reduce future losses.

League work on energy began in the early 1970s; in 1975 the LWVUS adopted a position supporting energy conservation as national policy. In 1976, the LWVUS Board approved guidelines to implement the position. Since then, the League has made conservation the crux of its energy agenda, recognizing that the conservation of energy guarantees major long-term benefits—environmental, economic and strategic—to individuals, the country and the world.

The 1976 Convention authorized a study to “evaluate sources of energy and the government’s role in meeting future needs,” which resulted in a broad 1978 position on energy policies and sources (including conservation) that is the basis for action on a wide variety of energy issues at all government levels. The 1979 Council recommended that the LWVUS Board review application of the Energy position to nuclear energy; it subsequently determined that the League would work to minimize reliance on nuclear fission.

The League advocates a national energy policy emphasizing increased fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, opposition to oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and support for government action in the development and use of energy conservation and renewable energy sources.

Worldwide recognition of the global nature of environmental problems and the need for sustainable development came to the fore with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Leagues across the country hosted meetings to funnel citizen input into the UNCED agenda, and the LWVUS urged support for the Earth Summit’s recommendations on global cooperation.

The League opposed efforts in the 104th Congress to pass “takings” legislation that would seriously undermine environmental protections in the name of “private property rights.” While an extreme takings bill passed the House early in 1995, there was no Senate action. The League supported stewardship of critical resources, opposing congressional measures to transfer coastal lands from public to private hands.

In 2005, the League urged Congress to oppose energy legislation that would have wrongfully used the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters as a pretext for undermining important environmental protections.

Throughout the 2000s, the League continued its opposition to repeated efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).In 2006, the League submitted comments to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) task force, urging its members to uphold the integrity of the original landmark legislation.

Early in 2012, the League declared its opposition to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline because of the need to put the U.S. on a path of emissions reductions, to protect against climate change and to ensure safe drinking water for all Americans. Later that year, the League commended the President’s decision to delay the approval of the pipeline until appropriate study and consideration could be taken.

The League continues to lobby against legislation that would undermine clean air standards, make global warming worse and fail to provide for needed energy conservation measures.

The League’s Position

Resource management decisions must be based on a thorough assessment of population growth and of current and future needs. The inherent characteristics and carrying capacities of each area’s natural resources must be considered in the planning process. Policy makers must take into account the ramifications of their decisions on the nation as a whole as well as on other nations.

To assure the future availability of essential resources, government policies must promote stewardship of natural resources. Policies that promote resource conservation are a fundamental part of such stewardship. Resources such as water and soil should be protected. Consumption of nonrenewable resources should be minimized. Beneficiaries should pay the costs for water, land and energy development projects. Reclamation and reuse of natural resources should be encouraged.

The League believes that protection and management of natural resources are responsibilities shared by all levels of government. The federal government should provide leadership, guidance and financial assistance to encourage regional planning and decision making to enhance local and state capabilities for resource management.

The League supports comprehensive long-range planning and believes that wise decision-making requires:

  • adequate data and a framework within which alternatives may be weighed and intelligent decisions made;
  • consideration of environmental, public-health, social and economic impacts of proposed plans and actions;
  • protection of private property rights commensurate with overall consideration of public health and environmental protection;
  • coordination of the federal government's responsibilities and activities;
  • resolution of inconsistencies and conflicts in basic policy among governmental agencies at all levels;
  • regional, interregional and/or international cooperation when appropriate;
  • mechanisms appropriate to each region that will provide coordinated planning and administration among units of government,
    governmental agencies and the private sector;
  • procedures for resolving disputes; 
  • procedures  for mitigation of adverse impacts;
  • special responsibility by each level of government for those lands and resources entrusted to them;
  • special consideration for the protection of areas of critical environmental concern, natural hazards, historical importance and aesthetic value;
  • special attention to maintaining and improving the environmental quality of urban communities.