America's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 was signed into law on January 1, 1970. It is described as 'an Act to establish a national policy for the environment, to provide for the establishment of a Council on Environmental Quality, and for other purposes'. It also generated a vast quantity of work for environmental consultants, first in the USA and then around the world. The World Bank and the UNDP led the way in making environmental assessment a pre-condition for devolopment loans and aid.
Much environmental assessment work is done by scientists but their training is essentially analytical. When decisions have to be made about physical development projects, design and policy judgements have to be made. This requires the kind of balanced ability which is developed on landscape architecture and design programmes. Hence the increasing trend for environmental assessment teams to be led by landscape professionals. If the landscape profession had 'got its act together' on January 1 1970 it could have been the lead profession from the start. Ian McHarg, landscape architect and author of Design with nature, was one of the leading advocates for the introduction of what came to be called Environmental Impact Assessment.