ELI Primary Menu

Skip to main content

Russell E. Train

President, World Wildlife Fund; Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Chair, U.S. Council on Environmental Quality

Interview Year: 2011

In 1958, Russell Train and his wife Aileen went on a camping safari to East Africa, recalled by him as a “life-altering experience.”  They founded an organization that became the African Wildlife Foundation, and Train later left his judgeship on the U.S. Tax Court to serve as President of the Conservation Foundation and Undersecretary of the Interior. He confessed that he found environmental issues “more fun to work with” than the tax issues.  What luck for the environment that he did!

Fortuitously seated next to President-Elect Nixon at an advisory group dinner, Train took the opportunity to “bend his ear” about the importance of giving priority to environmental issues in the new administration.  He then served as the first Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality in 1970 and as the second Administrator of EPA from 1973-1977.   During his time at CEQ, he recruited a highly regarded staff and began the process of putting in place the Council’s important rules on preparation of environmental assessments and issued major reports on environmental issues and progress.  At EPA, he approved the catalytic converter as available technology to meet Clean Air Act auto emission standards, implemented  the Clean Water Act permit program,  fought successfully to regulate lead additives in gasoline, and expanded EPA’s work on international environmental issues.

After leaving EPA, he served as President and Chair of the World Wildlife Fund where he launched the Wildlands and Human Needs program explicitly linking conservation and human well-being and  the Education for Nature Program to train young professionals from the developing world.  Throughout his career, Train commanded universal respect for his integrity, his judgment, and his profound commitment to environmental values.  During 1988, he served as Co-Chairman of Conservationists for President Bush and remained a strong voice for the restoration of progressive Republican participation in contending with today’s environmental challenges.  He passed away in 2012.