Secretaries of the Interior Series

Event Date: Sep 23, 2005

 

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt will visit the University of Colorado at Boulder Sept. 23 to speak about his new book, Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America.

Babbitt’s appearance was sponsored by CU-Boulder’s Center of the American West, Natural Resources Law Center, and Center for Environmental Journalism.

The “Cities in the Wilderness” title refers to how the boundaries that once separated cities from surrounding forests, farmlands, and natural landscapes are beginning to blur and disappear, Babbitt said. “Sprawl is erasing the distinction between the built environment and the natural environment,” he said. “And both the quality of urban life and the integrity of our natural ecosystems are declining. Cities and natural landscapes, or wilderness, function best with a fair degree of separation, which is made possible by good land-use planning.”

Babbitt currently practices law in Washington, D.C. He served as Secretary of the Interior from 1993 to 2001, as Governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987, and as Attorney General of Arizona from 1975 to 1978.

The son of a northern Arizona ranching family, Babbitt came to appreciate and treasure the West’s cultural and natural heritage at an early age. His father helped found the Arizona Wildlife Federation and the Arizona Game Protective Association.

With degrees in geology, geophysics, and law, Babbitt was first elected to statewide office in Arizona at age 36. In 1978 he became Governor, won reelection twice to that office, and served nine years in all. In 1988, Babbitt was a candidate for President of the United States. From 1988 to 1993 he practiced law and served as head of the League of Conservation Voters.

As Secretary of the Interior from 1993 to 2001, Babbitt tackled some of the most complex and controversial issues in public land management, resulting in reforms to mining, grazing, and endangered species law, and the protection of millions of acres of federal land through the designation and creation of several national monuments.

Highlights of his tenure at the Department of the Interior include shaping the old-growth forest plan in the Pacific Northwest; drafting interagency plans to restore the ecosystem of south Florida, the Everglades and Florida Bay; helping to enact the massive California Desert Protection Act, the largest land-protection bill ever enacted in the lower 48 states; forging new legislation for protection of the national wildlife refuges; and negotiating the largest state-federal land swap in the history of the lower 48 states to create the 2-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and other parks in Utah.

Babbitt became the first Interior Secretary to restore fire to its natural role in the wild, and the first to train and serve as an actual firefighter. He also became the first Interior Secretary to tear down dams and restore the flow of rivers into the Atlantic and the Pacific. He was personally involved in demonstrating catch-and-release programs for endangered trout and salmon to highlight how restoring native fish habitat can help restore economies.