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From the perspective of the conservationist, preservationist, and environmentalist, a new era started on January 1, 1970, when President Richard M. Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. In the view of the general public, this was an appropriate response to their demand that the chief executive officer of the country do something constructive to minimize or alleviate the problems causing their environmental concerns. This was an act that provided for the establishment of a national policy for the environment and the establishment of a Council on Environmental Quality, and had other purposes. The national policy was to encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between people and their environment; to promote efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere; to stimulate the health and welfare of people; and to understand the relationship of ecological systems and natural resources with the health of the nation.

Congress recognized the profound impact of the activities of people on the natural environment, the significance of population growth, the problems of high-density urbanization, industrial expansion, resource exploitation, and new technologies, and the relationship of the environment to the health and welfare of people. Congress stated that it was the continuing policy of the federal government to work with state and local governments, public and private organizations, and business and industry to preserve existing environmental quality and improve areas that had been overused while protecting the health of people.

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