President Trump Issues Executive Orders to Secure Environmental Legacy

Last week, President Trump issued two Executive Orders to further his environmental agenda. Focusing on our nation’s tree canopy and forest health and improving water infrastructure and water supply, the Executive Orders build on ongoing environmental protection actions. Each creates a new federal interagency group to carry out the orders.

The Executive Order on Establishing the One Trillion Trees Interagency Council, issued on Oct. 13, makes good on the President’s announcement at the State of the Union this year to join the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees initiative, a global effort to grow and conserve one trillion trees worldwide by 2030. The Executive Order creates the United States One Trillion Trees Interagency Council, through Dec. 31, 2030, to manage U.S. efforts to grow, restore and conserve trees.

Shortly after the President’s State of the Union address, House Republican leaders, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), unveiled a package of bills aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Included in the package is The Trillion Trees Act (H.R. 5859), sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), which would commit the U.S. to plant approximately 3.3 billion trees each year domestically while providing technical assistance and foreign aid to help maximize forest growth and reverse deforestation internationally.

Moreover, while trees provide other environmental, health and community benefits – such as helping to manage stormwater runoff, decreasing heat island effect, and increasing property values – some communities struggle with tree maintenance and invasive species that are devasting urban tree canopies.

While the global initiative’s goal is to “help fight climate change,” the Executive Order makes no mention of the phrase. As we know, trees take carbon out of the atmosphere, but the increasing difficulty of permanently storing carbon in trees and maintaining current forests in a changing climate means planting trees is not a silver bullet for reducing carbon emissions.

Moreover, while trees provide other environmental, health and community benefits – such as helping to manage stormwater runoff, decreasing heat island effect, and increasing property values – some communities struggle with tree maintenance and invasive species that are devasting urban tree canopies.

Second, and building on the connection between our nation’s forested watersheds, which many communities rely on to capture and filter their drinking water, on Oct. 14 the President issued an Executive Order on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure.

The Executive Order focuses on three key pillars:

  • Modernizing America’s water infrastructure,
  • Improving the nation’s water resource management
  • Creating opportunities for American water workers

The Water Subcabinet, co-chaired by the Secretary of the Interior and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is responsible for developing a national water strategy to enhance water storage, water supply, and drought resiliency; improve water quality, source water protection, nutrient management, and restoration activities; support the innovation and modernization of water systems; and advance water data management, research, modeling, and forecasting.

The Executive Order builds on ongoing work within the agencies important to local governments, namely EPA’s Integrating Planning Framework and workforce development program within the water infrastructure sector. Additionally, the Executive Order supports regional restoration efforts, including in the Great Lakes, Florida Everglades, and Mississippi River basin.

Next on the President’s environmental agenda, EPA is expected to release Lead and Copper Rule revisions in the coming weeks, part of the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts.  

About the Author

Carolyn Berndt

About the Author

Carolyn Berndt is the Program Director for Sustainability, Federal Advocacy.