Ex-Interior Secretary Stewart Udall Remembered

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Former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall died at his home in Santa Fe, N.M., on Saturday. He was 90. Udall led the department in the 1960s and pushed for the expansion of public lands and more protection for endangered species.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

A hero of the environmental movement, Stewart Udall, has died. He was 90 years old. Udall was interior secretary for two presidents: Kennedy and Johnson. And as NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, he will be remembered for the treasured American landscapes that he helped save.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: In 1967, Stewart Udall was at the center of a debate over whether to build dams in the Grand Canyon. He took his family with him on a raft trip down the Colorado River. His oldest son, Tom, remembers it well.

Mr. TOM UDALL: When Dad got off the rafting trip and out of the canyon, he held a press conference and said, we're not going to build dams in the Grand Canyon. It's a magnificent place, and we should leave it alone.

SHOGREN: Tom Udall is now a senator from New Mexico.

Mr. T. UDALL: That ended it. It was never talked about again, as far as I remember.

SHOGREN: During another raft trip three decades later, Stewart Udall explained what being conservation leaders meant to him and his late brother, Moe.

Mr. STEWART UDALL (Former Interior Secretary): This didn't mean that we were anti-development, but it meant that we were saying to developers, to corporations and so on: Look, there's a good way and a bad way. And do it the right way, or you're going to have a fight on your hands.

SHOGREN: As Interior secretary in the 1960s, Stewart Udall presided over the preservation of almost 4 million acres, including four national parks, six national monuments, eight national sea and lakeshores, and 56 wildlife refuges. He steered Congress to pass the wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers acts.

Mr. CHARLES CONCONI (co-author The Energy Balloon): I've don't think anybody since Teddy Roosevelt had such as incredible impact on preserving so much of the natural beauty of the environment.

SHOGREN: That's Chuck Conconi, a longtime Washington journalist who wrote a book with Udall in the 1970s about the energy crisis. Udall stayed engaged in conservation by writing books, and advising his family of politicians.

Stewart Udall was in his mid-80s when he took his last trip down the Grand Canyon with his grandson Bryce. Tom Udall recalls that his dad hiked 10 steep miles out of the canyon, despite his family's protests.

Mr. T. UDALL: He said, Bryce and I are hiking out of the canyon; that's it. And he did it - and had a martini at the top.

SHOGREN: Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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