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During the mid-1980s, however, a growing need developed to combine the state’s interrelated natural resources, environmental and public health regulatory agencies into a single department. With the support of the administration, the General Assembly passed legislation in 1989 to combine elements of the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Natural Resources and Community Development (NRCD) into a single Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources.
Three of the old NRCD divisions (Community Assistance, Economic Opportunity, and Employment and Training) were transferred to other departments. The remaining divisions were combined with the Health Services Division from the N.C. Department of Human Resources to form the new agency. The creation of the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources (DEHNR) ushered in a new relationship between the environment and the health of the state’s communities and citizens.
From 1989 to 1997, new DEHNR divisions were formed, others split and still others expanded in both manpower and regulatory authority. The increases and changes were in response to a new awareness by the public and businesses that North Carolina’s growing industrial, commercial and population expansion was exacting a high price on natural resources.
The new agencies included the Office of Minority Health and its Minority Health Advisory Committee, legislatively created in 1992. The Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Health and Healthy Carolinians 2000 followed. The state's three aquariums merged into one office inside DEHNR in 1993 and the Museum of Natural Sciences followed suit the same year.
Secretaries of Environment and Natural Resources1