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Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, national origin, sex, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.  

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to working in collaboration with Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments, along with non-governmental organizations, and private individuals, to address conditions that place communities at risk and assist communities to achieve environmentally suitable living conditions and ideally, healthier lives. 

History & Federal Response

History

The environmental justice movement began through the activism of people of color addressing environmental and economic burdens such as poor air and water quality, lack of access to land and nutritious, culturally relevant foods. The movement gained national attention through the 1960s and 80s during the Memphis Sanitation Strike, the class action lawsuit against Southwestern Waste Management in Houston, TX, brought by the Northeast Community Action Group, and peaceful protests against toxic waste dumping in Warren County, North Carolina; one of the few majority black population counties in the state. 

Issues of environmental deprivation go back much further, though. Since first contact, the removal of indigenous peoples from their lands and the institution of slavery, people of color on the land that would become known at the United States have faced dispossession. Their fight continues through protests, federal and state lobbying, and grassroots action and activism.

Federal Response

​​​​​​The Federal Government is dedicated to empowering individuals and communities; particularly in ways that promote and protect national public health and the environment, while conserving our national treasures and monuments. It is committed to guidance from scientific research to improve health, protect the environment, ensure access to clean air and water, and healthy, culturally relevant food. 

Executive Orders & Planning

Current Topics

Selected external links organized by subject
Climate & Environment
  • EPA Tools Comparison Chart
    Environmental Protection Agency
    • Environmental Justice Screen and Mapping Tool (EJSCREEN)
      A mapping tool that provides nationally consistent data concerning demographic and environmental information for a given area. 
    • EnviroAtlas
      Provides geospatial data, easy-to-use tools, and other resources related to ecosystem services, chemical and non-chemical stressors, and human health.
    • National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA)
      A thorough evaluation of air toxics in the United States, using emissions data to assess health risks.
  • NEPAssist
    Facilitates the environmental review process and project planning in relation to environmental considerations.  
  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program
    Designed to empower states, communities, and stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.
  • U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit
    A website designed to help people find and use tools, information, and subject matter expertise to build climate resilience (i.e. help manage climate-related risks and opportunities help guide users in building resilience to extreme climate related events). The Toolkit offers information from across the U.S. federal government. 
  • Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST)
    This is a tool to help federal agencies identify disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. This tool is in public beta form and will be updated based on feedback and research. 

 

Community Development
  • Groundwork U.S.A
    Has a network of 22 trusts which engages with people and communities in the United States to tangibly improve environmental, economic, and social conditions while increasing likelihood of upward mobility, health outcomes, and overall quality of life.
  • Community Guide to Environmental Justice and NEPA Methods
    Environmental Justice Inter-Agency Working Group -  Lays out a framework for how Federal agencies generally consider EJ in the NEPA process, and summarizes opportunities that you may use to work with federal agencies to advance EJ. 
Education & Training
Environmental Justice
Farmland & Food
  • Healthy Food Policy Project
    Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) - identifies and evaluates local laws that seek to promote access to healthy food while also contributing to strong local economies, an improved environment, and health equity, with a focus on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups. This effort is a collaboration of CAFS, the Public Health Law Center (PHLC), and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. This collaborative effort is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. 
    • "Food is accessible when it is affordable and community members can readily grow or raise it, find it, obtain it, transport it, prepare it, and eat it."
  • Farmland Access Legal Toolkit
    (CAFS) - The goal of the toolkit is to provide a helpful resource for farmers who need land in order to farm, and for farmers who want to transition their land to another farmer, as part of their estate planning or for other reasons.
    • Heir's Property - Is property passed to family members via inheritance, intestacy, or without an estate planning strategy.  In many instances, heirs own the property as "tenants in common," which means they each own an interest in the undivided land.  For heirs, owning property in this way, without clear title, can lead to many problems.
    • Recursos en Español - CAFS has translated many pages of the Toolkit into Spanish to better serve individuals and organizations that serve Spanish-speaking farmers.  Audio case studies are also available to illustrate the most relevant legal principles.

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