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

September 1
Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, Died (1914)
September 2
President Roosevelt Dedicated Great Smoky National Park (1940)
September 3
Wilderness Act passed (1964)
September 4
Fort Bragg, Home of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Established (1918)
September 5
UNESCO Established First World Heritage Sites (1978)
September 6
Alcide d’Orbigny, French Naturalist, Born (1802)
September 7
Edward Birge, Father of Limnology, born (1851)
September 8
UN Millennium Declaration ratified (2000)
September 9
First “Bug” Found in Computer (1945)
September 10
Henry Hardtner, Father of Southern Forestry, Born (1870)
September 11
World Wildlife Fund Began Operations (1961)
September 12
Canyonlands National Park Established (1964)
September 13
Walter Reed born (1851)
September 14
Marc Reisner, Author of Cadillac Desert (1948)
September 15
Darwin reaches the Galapagos Islands (1835)
September 16
Ed Begley Jr., Environmental Advocate, born (1949)
September 17
Edgar Wayburn, Wilderness Advocate, Born (1906)
September 18
Grey Owl, Pioneering Conservationist in Canada, Born (1888)
September 19
Urmas Tartes, Estonian Nature Photographer, born (1963)
September 20
AAAS Founded (1848)
September 21
Assateague Island National Seashore Created (1965)
September 22
Peace Corps becomes law (1961)
September 23
Rose Selected as U.S. National Flower (1986)
September 24
President Kennedy Dedicated Pinchot Institute (1963)
September 25
Pope Francis Addressed the UN on the Environment (2015)
September 26
Johnny Appleseed Born (1774)
September 27
“Silent Spring” Published (1962)
September 28
National Public Lands Day
September 29
Steinhart Aquarium opens (1923)
September 30
Hoover Dam Dedicated (1935)
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