The position of Secretary for State for the Environment was created by Edward Heath in 1970. It combined the ministries of Housing & Local Government, Transport and Public Buildings and Works in a new Department for the Environment (DoE). The portfolio included "Environmental Protection" although that was a small segment of the role.

In part the Department was created in response to the growing environmental (ecological) concerns in the 1960s and events like the 1967 Torrey Canyon disaster. Writing in 1992 Mike Robertson1 observed that laws concerning protection of the environment started at least 100 years before the creation of the Department, and that the new laws that were introduced lagged behind public interest. Nevertheless the DoE did oversee the introduction of some significant new measures, often at the behest of European (EEC) directives which sometimes conflicted with other national government imperatives.

In 1976 Callaghan restored transport to its own department and secretary of state. This remained the position throughout the Thatcher era. In 1997 when Labour returned to power, Blair merged transport back in to the department to create the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).

Following the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis the environmental protection elements of DETR were separated and merged with the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food to create Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Year Secretary of State Department   Events
1970 Peter Walker Environment First Environment Minister in the world. Attracted much interest at 1972 Stockholm Conference. Pursued an agenda to clean up Britains rivers and canals (many of which were biologically dead zones) - the measures he put in place have had substantial lasting benefits.
1972 Geoffrey Ripon   Introduced the 1973 Water Act continuing Peter Walkers work on cleaning up waterways. 
1974 Anthony Crosland   Introduced the Protection of the Environment Bill, supported by Mrs Thatcher as shadow Environment minister saying "it is likely to have a greater, more lasting impact on the quality of life...than most other measures." It was eventually passed as the Control of Pollution Act .
1976 Peter Shore   Environment Minister who introduced the Wildlife and Countryside Bill as required by the 1979 EEC Directive on rare birds. Bill was eventually overtaken by the election, but reintroduced by the incoming Conservative government as an EEC requirement.
1979 Michael Heseltine   Oversaw the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 amid much political acrimony. For the most part was more concerned with organisational details of the Department and non eco-environmental aspects of his responsibilities.
1983 Tom King   Only in post for 6 months before being shuffled on. 
1983 Patrick Jenkin   Lasted nearly two years in post but didn't make an impact on the ecological front. 
1985 Kenneth Baker   Served 9 months at environment before moving to education where he introduced the national curriculum and instituted "Baker Days" (in-service training days). No impact at Environment  
1986 Nicholas Ridley   His major action at environment was the introduction of the Poll Tax. Say no more!
1989 Chris Patten   Introduced and steered through parliament the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, the culmination of Thatcher's 1988 'green moment'.
1990 Michael Heseltine   Returned to Environment as a political heavyweight but didn't achieve much,
1992 Michael Howard   Appointed after the 92 election and responsible for encouraging the USA to participate in the Rio Earth Summit, but shortly afterwards was moved to Home Secretary, 
1993 John Gummer   Introduced 1995 Environment Act and the Landfill tax. Praised by Friends of the Earth in 1996 as "the best Environment Secretary we've ever had" 
1997 John Prescott Environment Transport and the Regions One of his first acts was to play a major role in negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol in late '97. Initiated debate about car usage, road pricing, and the need for effective public transport alternatives with the objective of reducing car miles for environmental benefits.
2001 Margaret Beckett Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) No significant eco-environmental achievements 
2006 David Milliband   Very strong on climate change and the need for action at all levels. Pushed for Europe (EU) to play a lead role. Floated idea of personal carbon credits as a way of empowering people to take personal action in addition to national and international mandates. Pushed for EU legislation for 30% emissions reductions by 2020.  
2007 Hilary Benn   COP15 Copenhagen 2009. Main focus as Secretary of State was on bovine TB and started the programme of badger culling.
2010 Caroline Spelman   Minimal impact as Environment Secretary 
2012 Owen Patterson   Climate change sceptic. Cut funding for adaptation by 40%. Accused badgers of being responsible for failure of the culling trials. In favour of fracking and fox hunting. Possibly the worst environment secretary ever. 
2014 Elizabeth Truss   COP21 Paris 2015. Introduced a bee and pollinator strategy and then approved lifting EU ban on neonicotinoids. Stated human induced climate change is happening and then reduced subsidies on solar panels. Determined advocate of cutting environmental protection legislation.  
2016 Andrea Leadsom   Opposed wind farms and EU renewable energy targets. Supports fracking. 
2017 Michael Gove   Current incumbent...