photo credit: historycentral.com
Thanks to Ken Burns and PBS, I'd heard of Stuart Udall before he died recently at the age of 90. In career terms, Udall was the forward-looking conservationist who served as Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Under his tenure, our nation expanded a mandate of stewardship for our natural surroundings that began with John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. This excerpt from the New York Times article by Keith Schneider and Cornelia Dean illustrates his legacy:
Few corners of the nation escaped Mr. Udall’s touch. As interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he presided over the acquisition of 3.85 million acres of new holdings, including 4 national parks — Canyonlands in Utah, Redwood in California, North Cascades in Washington State and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas — 6 national monuments, 9 national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, 50 wildlife refuges and 8 national eashores. He also had an interest in preserving historic sites, and helped saved Carnegie Hall from destruction.Having visited certain of these treasured lands, I feel a direct debt of gratitude to Udall and his compatriots who recognized that his generation (as does ours today) held the power to preserve this continent's natural history for forthcoming Americans even in the face of strident opposition.
His descriptions of the Guadalupe Mountains hit home for me and helped to conjure up memories of days and nights spent at the foot of that great, monolithic ship's prow in Texas: the feel of the cool air, the sound of crunching footsteps as they echoed up canyon walls, and the magic of the life-giving streams trickling down the valley. Stuart Udall saw the grand value of these now heralded places before most others, and we should consider ourselves lucky that he did.
"Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man." - Stuart Udall