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Environmental Justice Resources

Circular diagram of different components contributing to environmental justice. EPA.

The environmental justice resource guide compiles relevant and current resources related to supporting and fostering environmental, economic, and health prosperity in rural communities. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has defined Environmental Justice as a tool to ensuring that the needs of underserved communities are met.  Underserved communities are those which have not participated in, or have not received, limited benefits from USDA programs which may improve their quality of life and/or environment.  This is accomplished by several pathways: 

1). Reducing disparate environmental burdens.

2). Removal of barriers to participation in the decision making processes (e.g. decisions about community, how funding is spent, etc.).

3). Increased access to environmental benefits (e.g. improvement of water and/or air quality, increased biodiversity, etc.) that help all communities stay safe and healthy.

4). Ensuring all populations have appropriate access to the benefits of government programs and activities that apply to them.

The USDA is committed to working in collaboration with Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments - as well as non-governmental organizations and private individuals, to address conditions that place communities at risk; and assisting those communities in achieving environmentally suitable living conditions and ideally, healthier lives.

As rural communities continue to experience population loss, higher rates of poverty, and lower educational attainment, the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) is focusing its research on factors that affect the income and poverty status of rural residents and their participation in federal assistance programs. 

Throughout this guide, information and resources related to the USDA's mission of addressing environmental justice will be outlined and shared. 

The documents below govern the implementation of federal and agency environmental justice objectives.

Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, 20 January 2021

"The Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."

Executive Order 13990: Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis, 20 January 2021

"Our Nation has an abiding commitment to empower our workers and communities; promote and protect our public health and the environment; and conserve our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory. Where the Federal Government has failed to meet that commitment in the past, it must advance environmental justice."

Executie Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, 27 January 2021

"The United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway…to assist agencies and State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change…Agencies shall make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities, as well as the accompanying economic challenges of such impacts. Justice40 Initiative. '…Federal investments might be made toward a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits flow to disadvantaged communities.'”

Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, 11 February 1994 

Established the responsibility of each Federal agency to "make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low income populations ..."

USDA Environmental Justice Strategic Plan (2016-2020​)

USDA Environmental Justice Progress Report

Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice

U.S. Department of Agriculture

StrikeForce.  A collaboration to leverage resources within the USDA and other federal, state, and local governments, and other partner organizations to help improve economics in rural America.

Environmental Justice Tools (NRCS).  NRCS offers tools to help ensure underserved communities have access to NRCS' financial and technical programs and services. Includes a list of their partnerships, outreach program, and role in USDA StrikeForce.

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America (ERS) Provides statistics on socioeconomic factors related to rural areas and small towns.

U.S. Department of Interior

DOI Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice Directory.  The DOI protects America's natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.  The directory provides contact information for liaisons in various agencies within the Department of Interior (e.g. Office of Environmental Policy & Compliance, Bureau of Indian Affairs).

Guide to Federal Assistance and Resources for Environmental Justice Efforts (EJ IWG).  A goal of the EJ IWG is to provide greater public access to federal information and resources, and this guide is part of that effort. This guide shares tips on using beta.Sam.gov and Grants.gov to search for federal assistance and help find the most relevant information. 

Community Guide to Environmental Justice and NEPA Methods.  Provides information for communities who want to assure that their environmental justice (EJ) issues are adequately considered when there is a Federal agency action that may involve environmental impacts on minority populations, low-income populations, and/or Indian tribes and indigenous communities.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  

Resources including grants and planning tools related to Environmental Justice. 

  • EPA designed utilities for screening, mapping, and reviewing areas that have potential environmental issues. 

Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (EJSCREEN) - A mapping tool that provides nationally consistent data concerning demographic and environmental information for a given area.

NEPAssist - Facilitates the environmental review process and project planning in relation to environmental considerations. Draws data from the EPA Geographic Information Systems databases among others. 

EnviroAtlas - Sourcing geospatial data, tools, and resources related to ecosystem services, their stressors, and human health.

Brownfield Site - With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term "brownfield site" means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. A petroleum brownsfield is where this contaminant is petrolem. The Brownsfields Program provides grants and technical assistance, training and research to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties using tools such as Targeted Brownfields Assessments (TBA) and monitoring/preventing/ameliorating underground storage tanks.

Land Revitalization - The sustainable redevelopment of abandoned properties encouraging communities and land owners to reuse and redevelop land that was previously contaminated and turning it into public parks, restored wetlands, and new businesses. Land Revitalization Programs at the EPA include Superfund Redevelopment, Cleanups at Federal Facilities, Underground Storage Tanks, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Brownfields.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Association

The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Tools help manage climate-related risks and opportunities, and to help guide users in building resilience to extreme events. Multiple filtering capabilities allow narrowing tools for topic (e.g. built environments, Tribal nations, food), function (e.g. identify vulnerabilities, engage/communicate, recover/rebuild), and region (e.g. national, international, geographic). 

Funding

Environmental Justice Grants and Resources (Environmental Protection Agency; EPA).  Supporting and empowering communities as they develop and implement solutions to address environmental and/or public health issues at the local level.

Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Programs and services provided through the Farm Service Agency to assist all farmers with financial needs associated with certain commodities, agricultural laws and regulations, and conservation and disaster support.

Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS).  FAS leads the USDA’s efforts to help developing countries improve their agricultural systems and build their trade capacity. FAS offers multiple funding and assistance programs related to food needs, international agricultural trade, and food procurement.

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs (Agricultural Marketing Service; AMS FMPP/LFPP).  The FMPP and LFPP programs specifically emphasize low-food access/low-income areas (i.e. low-income communities who have limited access to grocery stores). The program supports America's underserved communities in their pursuit of improved access to fresh, healthy food. 

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  NRCS programs provide funding for socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers to cover up to 90% of conservation practice costs dependent on producer eligibility. Their programs increase incentives for disadvantaged applicants to participate by offering greater upfront expense coverage for conservation practice installations.

Programs & Services (RD).  Rural Development operates over fifty financial assistance programs for a variety of rural applications, including programs and services to support communities (including tribal communities), nonprofit organizations, local lenders, and individuals to address needs in their communities around water and waste disposal.

Tribal Wildlife Grants (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; FWS).  Provides funding to develop and implement programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat, including species that hold cultural and traditional importance to Native Americans and species that are not hunted or fished.

​Water and Environmental Programs (Rural Development; RD WEP).  WEP assists rural communities obtain the technical assistance and financing necessary to develop drinking water and waste disposal systems.

Women, Infants, and Children PreScreening Tool (Food and Nutrition Service; FNS WIC) An FNS launched tool to help applicants determine if they're likely to be eligible for WIC benefits. This tool can be completed in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Somali, and Vietnamese.

Outreach

Environmental Justice Regional Contacts (HHS).  Regional Health Administrators perform essential functions for HHS in three major areas: prevention, preparedness, and agency-wide coordination.  

Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP).  Increases access to care for underserved populations and builds health care capacity by providing information on funding, health policies, rural hospital and community programs, and rural health research.

Market Access Program (Foreign Agricultural Service; FAS MAP) Through MAP, FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups, and small businesses to share costs associated with overseas marketing and promotional activities to help build export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. 

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) FNS operates 15 nutrition assistance programs in cooperation with State and local agencies and organizations. These programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meal programs, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, form a nationwide safety net that helps low-income families and individuals, including those in environmental justice communities.

Urban Waters Federal Partnership An interagency initiative reconnecting urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies. The Partnership also collaborates with community-led revitalization efforts to improve our Nation's water systems and promote their economic, environmental and social benefits.

The Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Project (Forest Service; USFS).  Partnership between USFS, NRCS, and U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities assists African American landowners in obtaining professional advice on government assistance programs and formal forest management plans. 

Cooperative Forestry Programs (Forest Service; USFS).  The Cooperative Forestry (CF) Unit of the USDA Forest Service works closely with communities and partners to maintain healthy forests across watersheds and ecosystems, on public and private land, for the benefit of all people. CF's work is delivered through state and local government, other federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and other partners.

Environmental Protection Agency 

U.S. Department of Interior

  • Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement - Get Involved - Semester Internship Program and volunteering program (Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA))

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Labor

National Library of Medicine