Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Yesterday I read that Stewart Udall died over the weekend.  For those unfamiliar with the name, Udall was Secretary of the Interior for eight years spanning the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and is widely credited with making major contributions to the National Park system and wilderness areas.  I'll skip the details (try that Google thing) and get right to my point, which is that Udall's passing got me to thinking about the significance of the Secretary of the Interior, both today and going forward, and the more I thought the more I realized that over the next 30 years, the Secretary of the Interior will likely be the cabinet position having the greatest impact on our lives and those of our children and grandchildren.

Yes, I said Secretary of the Interior, not Defense, not Energy, not Health and Human Services or any of the others.  Hear me out, now - while there are many factors that influence the quality of our life in this country, those that fall under the hand of the government while at the same time having the most enduring effect on our mental and physical well-being intersect at the Dept of the Interior.  I'm talking about energy, clean air and water, natural resources, recreation, the things that could really make your life suck if you took them away.  And yes, I've thought about all of the other things controlled by all of the other government agencies and instead of listing them here I'll give you the synopsis: some of them can't or won't be taken away, and the ones that can you won't miss.

The key to these quality of life nuggets remaining beneficial is balance.  Too much of one at the expense of another and it's not long before you're left with only one.  Utilize, but sustain.  From a hunter's and outdoorsman's perspective this balance is ever more critical.  As recently discussed in several excellent blog posts (Exit Booming, King of the Big Empty, and Greater Sage Grouse Dilemma), federal decisions will impact our sport and our heritage, often in ways that are difficult to change once the path is chosen.  Too much grazing means too few western gamebirds.  Too many wolves means unplanned thinning of cattle, sheep, and pets.  Too much drilling and you can place an X on the habitat for a few generations.

Udall was able to find the balance for an unusually long period of time in the life of a government official.  He never quite mastered the art of pleasing all the people all the time, and I'd be suspicious of anyone who did, but he was able to accomplish quite a bit of good, placating  most of the opposition with good old-fashioned logic and honesty.  Without destroying commerce he kept commercial interests from running roughshod over the land and still allowed our resources to be used commercially.  He saved a lot of wilderness at a critical time.  Forty years later we're fast approaching another critical time.  Here's hoping the person in that seat over the next few decades can find that balance.

 Stewart Udall
1920 - 2010


  1. Amen, Mark! Nicely said. There have been few Secretaries of the Interior since that struck that same balance as he did.


  2. Mark, I have long admired Stewart Udall. In fact, I have quoted him on my blog...

    "Over the long haul of life on this planet, it is the ecologists, and not the bookkeepers of business, who are the ultimate accountants."

    - Stewart Udall, 1970

    Sometimes we fail to recognize men who really make a difference in the life of the nation. Stewart Udall was one.