Former President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. His name triggers emotional, largely negative responses from both sides of the aisle, and he earned that.
That said, under pressure from a Congress at the time considered highly liberal, he signed into law the greatest environmental policies this nation has ever seen.
His contribution to conservation and preservation as a politician is matched only by Theodore Roosevelt, though, unlike Roosevelt, he signed these laws due to pressure from a newly awakened national sense of responsibility for the natural resources that, at the time, had been raped and pillaged by his country for nearly 200 years.
During his time in office, Earth Day was celebrated for the first time, and both NOAA and the EPA were established (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972) and Endangered Species Act (1973) were both signed into law and for the first time in national history, large-scale contributions to the preservation of wildlife and wildlands were not provided exclusively by hunters and fishermen.
The political landscape has changed along with the natural landscape in the nearly 50 years since, and many of these policies have since been amended. Species have been added and removed as they recover and become extinct.
Some species, like gray wolves, have sparked debates that grew into raging wildfires still burning hot, but most are quietly listed or delisted as needed without issue.
Perhaps the strangest piece of legislation from the Nixon era to remain largely untouched is the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972.
This legislation saw some amendment in 1994, but the law that protects all marine mammals within U.S. waters (including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, manatees, sea otters and polar bears) has seen little revisiting since that time.
In the absence of hunting pressure of any kind (most nearshore marine mammals were hunted by coastal Native tribes for thousands of years prior to white colonization), very few natural predators and a push to increase the quantity of food fish (such as salmon and steelhead), the numbers of certain species of marine mammals have grown exponentially.
Sea otters, trapped to extinction in Oregon decades ago, can now be seen fairly regularly in the southern reaches of the state near Brookings and Gold Beach.
Harbor seals wait at every cleaning station waiting to devour any scraps from the catch of the day.
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