Secretaries of the Interior Series

Event Date: Apr 20, 2006
Event Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Glenn Miller Ballroom, UMC

 

Two prominent former Secretaries of the Interior, Stewart Udall and James Watt, will meet in a public event for the first time April 20 to discuss land management issues with University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Patricia Limerick.

The public conversation will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the University Memorial Center’s Glenn Miller Ballroom on the CU-Boulder campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“Stewart Udall and James Watt are both figures of great historical significance, and the chance to hear a conversation between them is a spectacular opportunity,” said Patricia Limerick, Professor of History and Environmental Studies and Faculty Director of the Center of the American West.

“To many people engaged in natural resource issues, the names ‘Udall’ and ‘Watt’ may represent two opposite poles of opinion,” she said. “While we explore their significant areas of disagreement, we will also learn about some territories of opinion in which they are not worlds apart,” Limerick said.

The event will give Westerners “the opportunity to see that two people can explore their differences in a civil and good-humored manner, giving us hope for our own future in this contentious region,” she said.

The Udall-Watt conversation is sponsored by the CU-Boulder Center of the American West in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Denver law firms of Brownstein, Hyatt and Farber, and McKenna, Long and Aldridge.

Udall served as Secretary of the Interior for eight years from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. As Secretary, he successfully pressed for landmark environmental legislation including the Clean Air Act, the Wilderness Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Under his watch, the National Park Service added more than 2.4 million acres to its holdings, including four new national parks, six national seashores, and five national recreation areas. He was known at the time as one of the most effective spokespersons for the West, as well as for his ability to manage controversy and gain bipartisan support.

Watt served as Secretary of the Interior for three years from 1981 to 1983 under President Ronald Reagan. He entered his appointment in the face of considerable challenges resulting from the Sagebrush Rebellion – local Western reactions to the new environmental laws of the 1960s and 1970s had created a complicated set of tensions between Westerners and the Department of the Interior, Limerick said.

In response, Watt introduced an aggressive leasing program in cooperation with the governors, which helped rebuild America’s energy base and minimize U.S. dependence on foreign resources. Watt also implemented a $1 billion program to help reverse a trend of deterioration in the national parks and oversaw a complete rewriting of water reclamation law, which was approved by Congress and signed into law.

The April 20 event is part of the Wren and Tim Wirth Forum on the American West, which has brought seven current or former Secretaries of the Interior to campus to discuss their roles in shaping the West. The series included previous visits by Gale Norton, Bruce Babbitt, Walter Hickel, Donald Hodel, and Manuel Lujan, Jr., in addition to separate visits by Watt and Udall. The Center plans to publish a book drawing together lessons from the interviews with the secretaries.

Udall lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is an author engaged in writing on environmental issues. Watt lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Wickenburg, Arizona, and in recent years has been a lawyer, lecturer, professor, and businessman.

The Secretaries’ appearance is part of a series of events celebrating the Center of the American West’s 20th anniversary this year.