Train, Russell E.

Source: EPA
caption EPA Administrator Russell E. Train. Photo: EPA

Unlike many conservationists, ecologists, and environmentalists who commit themselves to nature in their early years, Russell E. Train found himself drawn to it in mid-life. Like his parents – U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Charles R. Train and Errol C. Brown – Train and his two brothers were reared in the District of Columbia. During the summers, however, the nautical Trains rented a house in Jamestown, Rhode Island, where Russell Train was born in June 1920. Family life may have been complicated by Admiral Train's long absences for sea duty, but the young brothers grew up in an otherwise secure household.

After attending the Potomac School, Russell Train graduated from St. Alban's in 1937. He then enrolled at Princeton University and in 1941 received a Bachelor's degree in Politics. On campus, he joined the Army ROTC (which Admiral Train forgave only because Princeton had no naval ROTC). This step committed young Train to four years of military service and from 1941 to 1945 he served on active duty in the U.S. and overseas, rising to the rank of major. Influenced by the example of an uncle – prominent New York federal judge Augustus Hand – Train decided to attend Columbia University Law School after his army discharge and earned an L.L.B. degree in 1948.

Russell Train devoted the first part of his career to government service as an attorney and jurist. From 1948 to 1965 he served successively as legal advisor for the Congressional Joint Committee of the House Ways and Means Committee (where he became an expert on tax law); Chief Counsel, then Minority Advisor to the same committee; and Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury and Chief of the department's tax legislative staff. In 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower asked the 37 year old lawyer to complete an unexpired term as U.S. Tax Court Judge, following which President John F. Kennedy chose him for a full 12 year appointment.

At this point, Train's path in life seemed clear. He could look forward to many secure years on the bench, which was fortunate; in 1954 he had married Aileen Bowdoin and now had small children to support. Despite these factors, he radically changed the course of his career. Actually, the metamorphosis began some time earlier, during two safaris to East Africa in 1956 and 1958. Observing the fragility of the African wilderness in the face of encroachment, in 1959 Train founded the Wildlife Leadership Foundation. Through it, he attempted to help the emerging nations of Africa establish an infrastructure of professional resource management in order to establish effective wildlife parks and reserves. His foundation continues to offer expertise along these lines.

Train's final environmental awakening occurred in 1965. From 1959 until that date, his involvement in conservation issues deepened and he met many figures associated with it internationally. But at age 45 he decided to abandon the safety of the tax court and accepted an offer to be president of the non-profit Conservation Foundation. A research, education, and information-oriented institution, during his tenure it stressed citizen participation, supported demonstration projects which infused ecological considerations into development planning, and sponsored a major conference on environmentalism in international economic growth. Train also focused the foundation on finding methods to insert greater environmental awareness into federal policy-making processes.

After three years in private life, Train found himself drawn back to government. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the seven-member National Water Commission. With the election of Richard M. Nixon to the presidency in November of that year, Train figured prominently in one of the many task forces established by the new president to review all executive functions. Nixon asked him to chair a group on resource and environmental issues, which he did between November 1968 and January 1969. The subsequent report proposed a White House office of environmental policy, an idea which bore fruit on January 1, 1970 in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Meanwhile, President Nixon appointed Train Undersecretary of the Interior. Here he led the Alaska Pipeline Intergovernmental Task Force, a difficult job which took almost one year. But with the passage of NEPA, the president established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and named Train as its first chairman.

Russell Train and his small White House staff quickly defined the environmental role of the CEQ. They assumed the duties of advising the president on policy, drafting legislation, coordinating all federal activities, and preparing an annual report on the state of the nation's environment. Train also carved out important international responsibilities for himself; for instance, becoming chairman of the NATO Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society.

No sooner had the CEQ established its own mission than a second federal environmental institution came into being. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened its doors in December 1970 and its Administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus, found himself following Train's recent example; that is, struggling to define the role of the new agency. From the early stages, it became evident that while the two organizations would work closely together, they would defer to each other in two spheres. Train and his staff would concentrate on policy formulation and international environmental activity, while William Ruckelshaus and EPA would focus on implementation.

Clearly, however, by 1973 the main tenants of environmental policy had been laid and EPA began to assume the dominant position. In April of that year, as the Watergate Crisis rose in intensity, Ruckelshaus resigned from EPA to become Acting FBI Director. Realizing the agency had become the "principal arena" for environmental activities, Russell Train declared his interest in becoming EPA Administrator and in May 1973 President Nixon nominated him for the position. He served as the second administrator from September 1973 to January 1977, during which time the agency expanded its interest in international affairs and turned to risk assessment as an instrument of policy-making. More important, at a time when the supply and cost of energy became paramount in the United States, Train and the EPA succeeded in "holding the environmental line."

Russell Train's personal commitment to conservation survived the rigors of eight full years as a federal environmental leader. In 1978 he was named president and chief executive officer of the World Wildlife Fund (U.S.) and became its chairman of the board in 1985.

Further Reading

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Environmental Protection Agency. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Environmental Protection Agency should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



(2008). Train, Russell E.. Retrieved from


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