Russell Train dies at 92; conservationist was early head of EPA


Russell Train, an important American conservationist and former tax court judge who helped craft some of the nation’s early and enduring environmental laws, has died. He was 92.

Train, who led the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s, died Monday at his farm in Bozman, Md. The EPA confirmed his death on its website but did not reveal the cause.

When the EPA was just getting established under the Nixon administration, Train helped set the path for the agency’s ongoing work, said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.


“His years with the agency saw landmark environmental achievements whose impacts are still felt,” Jackson said in a statement that cited such laws as the Toxic Substance Control Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, which helps protect the nation’s water.

During Nixon’s presidency, policies were set in motion to clean the air and waterways, preserve vast natural habitats, save hundreds of plant and animal species, and reduce or ban the use of deadly pesticides. Several interlocking federal agencies were also created to protect the environment.

“That environmental agenda was so wide-ranging, and yet so comprehensive, as to be without precedent in the history of the United States,” Train wrote in his 2003 memoir “Politics, Pollution, and Pandas.”

Newly elected President Nixon named him undersecretary of the Interior Department, and in 1970 Train became the first chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, an advisory group to the president.

Nixon said he didn’t want to be bothered with the details, so Train met with him but once or twice a year, which may have eased reform, Train wrote in his memoir.

He often credited two safari expeditions to Africa with helping him awaken to environmentalism. In 1961, Train founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, a conservation group. Four years later, he became president of the Conservation Foundation, a research and education organization.


After the EPA was started in 1970, William Ruckelshaus was its first administrator; and when he left in 1973 to run the FBI, Train was chosen to lead the EPA. He stayed in the post through Gerald Ford’s presidency and helped create such other landmark environmental laws as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act.

“The natural world has lost one its greatest friends,” Ruckelshaus said Tuesday. “Russell Train was a pioneer in the modern environmental movement and deserves the thanks of every American, indeed every citizen of the world for his life’s work.”

The son of a Navy admiral, Russell Errol Train was born June 4, 1920, in Jamestown, R.I.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1941, Train served in the Army during World War II and attained the rank of major.

He received a law degree from Columbia University in 1948 and spent his early career as a staff counsel to congressional committees before President Eisenhower named him a tax court judge. He stayed until 1965.

Train served as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund’s American chapter, leading that group from 1978 to 1985.

In 1991, Train was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

His survivors include his wife of 58 years, Aileen, and four children.