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From the Spring 2013 Conservationist for Kids

Image of DEC staff from the 1970's

Looking to the Future

By Gina Jack

Looking to the Future

Laws today set limits on how much pollution is allowed from factories, power plants and vehicles. Since these laws were enacted, there have been significant reductions in the amount of acid rain-causing pollutants added to the atmosphere by human activity. The health of affected forests, lakes and waterways is improving, but many still have a long way to go before they're completely recovered.

As acidic lakes become less acidic, they can again be home to fish and other wildlife. Forests can recover when the soil again provides nutrients that trees and other plants need to grow properly. Wildlife will not thrive until the habitat has enough good food, shelter and water. It can take decades-even an entire century-for natural areas to completely recover from damage due to acid rain.

You Can Make a Difference

Your actions can help to reduce the problem of acid rain. Everything you do that cuts back on air pollution created by power plants, factories and vehicles will help reduce the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in our atmosphere.
Here are a few ideas for you and your family:

  • Learn more about the causes and effects of acid rain and tell others about them.
  • Turn off lights and electrical devices when they're not needed.
  • Drive less. Carpool, take public transit, walk or ride a bike.
  • Maintain all fossil fuel engines such as cars, lawn mowers and home heating furnaces. Well maintained engines burn more efficiently and use less fuel.
  • Participate in citizen science programs, such as Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Birds in Forested Landscapes" project, and contribute to real research about acid rain and its effects on wildlife.

Research leads to Understanding-Understanding leads to Prevention

Acid rain was first described in Europe in the 1840s and 1850s. By the early 1900s, scientists there recognized that acid rain was harming forests. During the 1960s, scientists in the United States began monitoring precipitation for signs of acid rain. In 1990, Congress passed amendments to the 1970 Clean Air Act, including adding regulations to control acid deposition. Research continues around the world to study the causes and effects of acid rain, to test how effective laws to control acid rain have been, and to find new ways to prevent it.

Photo: To protect the Adirondack Mountains, New York was the first state in the nation to adopt and acid rain control program that considered pollution coming both from within and outside the state.