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
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.
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
- Executive Order 13985
Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, 20 January 2021
- Executive Order 13990
Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, 20 January 2021
- Executive Order 14008
Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, 27 January 2021
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EJ Action Plan
Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) - Plan to build up Environmental Justice in EPA's land protection and cleanup programs, December 2021
- EPA Strategic Plan to Address Climate Change and Advance Environmental Justice and Equity
28 March 2022
- White House and National Environmental Justice Advisory Councils
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.
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.
- Environmental Justice Screen and Mapping Tool (EJSCREEN)
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.
- EPA offers a variety of grant funding opportunities related to brownfields and land revitalization.
- 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.
- 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
- Learn About Environmental Justice
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Environmental Justice Learning Center
EPA - A one-stop training portal of online resources to build the capacity of EPA's partners to advance environmental justice. Through these materials one can learn about a range of topics, from the basics of environmental justice to how to apply for an EPA grant to integration of environmental justice into statutory programs.
- Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides, and Online Environmental Resources for Educators
An array of environmental and science based lesson plans, activities, and ideas from EPA, other federal and agencies, and external organizations. Encontrar recursos para estudiantes y maestros.
- The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Cooperative Agreement Program
Provides financial assistance to organization working on planning projects to address local environmental and/or public health issues in their communities. These organizations used the EPA's Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Model.
- Environmental Justice Screen and Mapping Tool
(EJSCREEN - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)) - A mapping tool that provides nationally consistent data concerning demographic and environmental information for a given area.
- Environmental Justice Tools
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - Tools to help ensure underserved communities have access to NRCS' financial and technical programs and services.
- Guide to Federal Assistance and Resources for Environmental Justice Efforts
This guide shares resources and tips for finding and accessing resources and information related to Environmental Justice topics.
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.