Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)

Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on January 31, 1920 (died 2010).  Udall is considered one of the most effective leaders of the nation’s primary land management agency during the environmentally active years of the 1960s and 1970s.

Udall came from a family with long roots in Arizona politics and public service.  His grandfather served in the Arizona Territorial legislature before statehood in 1912; his father was an Arizona Supreme Court Justice; his younger brother, Morris (popularly known as “Mo”) was a congressional representative and ran for president in 1976.

Udall kept up the family traditions.  He served two years as a Mormon missionary before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, where he served as a gunner on a B-24 bomber.  He and brother Mo formed a law firm after the war, through which they worked for desegregation in schools and other public facilities in Arizona.  He served three terms in the U.S. Congress.

Stewart Udall and Lady Bird Johnson in Grand Tetons National Park, 1964 (photo by Robert Knudsen)

His national impact began when President Kennedy appointed him as Secretary of the Interior in early 1961, a position he held for nine years, serving also under President Johnson.  Although he and President Johnson supposedly had a rocky relationship, he was a close colleague of the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, working with her on her platform to beautify America.  He was an outspoken advocate for strong federal land conservation policies, including the acquisition of lands for parks and other conservation purposes.  During his term as Secretary, he led the acquisition and reservation of nearly 4 million acres of federal lands, including 4 national parks, 9 national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, 8 national seashores and lakeshores, and more than 50 national wildlife refuges.

He also led the enactment of several new laws that facilitated the further development of federal conservation lands.  He helped win passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the law that provided formal definition of wilderness and initially designated more than 9 million acres as federally protected wilderness.  He similarly aided the National Wild and Scenic River Acts of 1968  that extended environmental protection to river systems, now including nearly 13,000 miles of 208 rivers in 40 states.  Perhaps most important, however, was the creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, established by Congress in 1964.  The law provided funds for the acquisition of conservation lands, using revenue from sale of excess federal property, federal gas taxes on motor boat fuels and federal taxes on offshore oil leases, along with general appropriations.  The act funded federal actions, but also included grants to states for similar actions.  Fund available have varied substantially over time, but reached nearly $1 billion in the late 1990s-early 2000s.

Cover of “The Quiet Crisis,” published by Stewart Udall in 1963 (photo by Larry Nielsen)

Udall believed that outdoor recreation was both healthy and therapeutic.  His physical prowess was notable.  He was an all-conference guard on the University of Arizona’s basketball team.  He climbed both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Fuji, and he often led extended hikes, up to 50 miles, while serving as Secretary of Interior.  At age 84, he hiked from the bottom to the rim of the Grand Canyon.

He brought the issue of conservation to the nation’s conscience in 1963 with his book, The Quiet Crisis.  The book extolled the essential connection between the land and the American people, and it encouraged Americans to look past short-sighted economic exploitation of the land toward a longer-term approach that we today call sustainability.

References:

American National Biography Online.   Stewart Lee Udall.  Available at:  http://www.anb.org/articles/07/07-00863.html.  Accessed January 30, 2017.

National Park Service.  Land and Water Conservation Fund.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/lwcf/index.htm.  Accessed January 30, 2017.

Schneider, Keith and Cornelia Dean.  2010.  Stewart L. Udall, Conservationist in Kennedy and Johnson Cabinets, dies at 90.  New York Times, March 20, 2010.  Available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/nyregion/21udall.html.  Accessed January 30, 2017.

University of Arizona Library, Special Collections.  Stewart Lee Udall:  Advocate for the Planet Earth.  Available at:  http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/sludall/index.html.  Accessed January 30, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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