R.I.P. Stewart L. Udall

From The Aspen Times (Barry Massey):

Stewart Udall, an elder in a famed political family who led the Interior Department as it promoted an expansion of public lands and helped win passage of major environmental laws, has died at the age of 90. During his 1961-1968 tenure as interior secretary, Udall sowed the seeds of the modern environmental movement. He later became a crusader for victims of radiation exposure from the government’s Cold War nuclear programs…

Udall, brother of the late 15-term congressman Morris Udall, served six years in Congress as a Democrat from Arizona, and then headed the Interior Department from 1961 through 1968 under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson…

Udall helped write several of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, which protects millions of acres from logging, mining and other development. “I never lost an argument with the budget people under either Kennedy or Johnson. If you had a new national park or a new policy on wilderness or something on wild rivers … they’d say, ‘Go ahead. It’s a good idea,'” Udall once said in an interview.

More than 60 additions were made to the National Park system during the Udall years, including Canyonlands National Park in Utah, North Cascades National Park in Washington, Redwood National Park in California and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretching from Georgia to Maine…

In a 1963 book, Udall warned of a “quiet conservation crisis” from pollution, overuse of natural resources and dwindling open spaces. He appealed for a new “land conscience” to preserve the environment. “If in our haste to ‘progress,’ the economics of ecology are disregarded by citizens and policy makers alike, the result will be an ugly America,” Udall wrote. “We cannot afford an America where expedience tramples upon esthetics and development decisions are made with an eye only on the present.”

After leaving government service, Udall taught, practiced law and wrote books. In 1979, he left Washington to return home to Arizona. In doing so, Udall began another career — leading a legal battle against the government he had once served as an influential insider. Udall helped bring a lawsuit against the government on behalf of the families of Navajo men who suffered lung cancer in mining uranium for the government. Another lawsuit sought compensation for people who lived downwind from aboveground nuclear tests in Nevada during the 1950s and early 1960s. The lawsuits failed in court, and Udall said the experience left him angry and discouraged. “The atomic weapons race and the secrecy surrounding it crushed American democracy,” Udall said in a 1993 interview with The New York Times. “It induced us to conduct government according to lies. It distorted justice. It undermined American morality.” But the lawsuits eventually produced results. They provided a mountain of evidence for congressional investigations into the safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. And in 1990, the Radiation Exposure Safety Act was enacted to compensate thousands of Americans. Udall helped write the measure and lobby for its passage.

Udall, born in St. Johns, Ariz., on Jan. 31, 1920, was raised on a farm in the desert country near the Arizona-New Mexico line, an area settled in 1879 by Mormons led by his missionary grandfather. The Udalls became one of the most prominent families in the state.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Scot Kersgaard). From the article:

During his eight years as Secretary, the National Park System expanded to include four new national parks, six new national monuments, eight seashores and lakeshores, nine recreation areas, 20 historic sites, and 56 wildlife refuges. In other words, Udall expanded the number of stunning natural places where you can spend weeks pulling fish out of rivers or just strolling around and thinking and breathing without ever catching a an industrial-life rash.

More coverage from the Arizona Daily Star (Jamar Younger):

Some of the accomplishments from Udall’s Cabinet career included the creation of the Wilderness Act of 1964, The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the expansion of the National Park system. He also helped create The Land and Conservation Fund…

Udall started as a Tucson attorney who fought to desegregate the city’s schools, open UA eating facilities to blacks and help pass a law banning discrimination against minorities in hiring. In 1968, he and his brother pushed through a bill creating the Central Arizona Project, which was signed by President Johnson. As a private attorney in the 1970s and ’80s, he won a 30-year battle to get Navajo uranium miners compensated for lung cancer incurred on the job. He also wrote “The Quiet Crisis” in 1963, a landmark book offering an early warning on threats to the environment.

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