Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

History of DEC

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller signing DEC legislation
April 22, 1970 -- Governor Nelson Rockefeller signing
legislation creating DEC

On April 22, 1970, Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed legislation to create the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and marked our first Earth Day. On July 1, 1970, we opened the doors to this newly formed agency.

Under Governor Andrew Cuomo, Commissioner Basil Seggos and those before them, New York has made remarkable progress in reducing air, land and water pollution, protecting 1.5 million acres of open space for future generations, and assisting the recovery of the bald eagle and sturgeon from virtual extirpation.

While New York's air, water and land are cleaner today, we still face several environmental challenges, including climate change which poses an existential threat to our way of life. As we look back and take stock of our accomplishments, we also look forward to building upon our successes and tackling these challenges in the next 50 years.

See our interactive environmental highlights timeline. You can read the full timeline (PDF) tracing DEC's history and various environmental milestones throughout the decades.

Earth Day 2020

Al Gote and Andrew Cuomo signing legislation
July 18, 2019 -- Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by former
Vice President Al Gore, signs the nation-leading Climate
Leadership and Community Protection Act and executes the
nation's largest offshore wind agreement and the single largest
renewable energy procurement by any state in U.S. history.

During the 1960s, changing public attitudes and the availability of scientific information that hinted at effects from humans, intended and unintended, on the environment led to the realization that government had a strong role to play in preserving resources and keeping the environment healthy. This expanded sense of awareness and responsibility led directly to the establishment of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

Here are some things you can do to commemorate Earth Day:

More about History of DEC:

  • Snapshots of DEC - Weekly highlights of DEC's accomplishments from the past 50 years
  • DEC Timeline - A short, interactive timeline about environmental highlights from the last 50 years
  • Find on this Page
  • Important Links
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8013.
  • Contact for this Page
  • Office of Communication Services
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4500
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions