Stewart Udall, who sowed the seeds of the modern environmental movement as secretary of the interior during the 1960s and later became a crusader for victims of radiation exposure from the government's Cold War nuclear programs, died Saturday. He was 90.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Stewart Udall, who sowed the seeds of the modern environmental movement as secretary of the interior during the 1960s and later became a crusader for victims of radiation exposure from the government’s Cold War nuclear programs, died Saturday. He was 90.

A statement from his family, released through the office of his son Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he died of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe.

Secretary Udall, brother of the late 15-term congressman Morris Udall, served six years in Congress as a Democrat from Arizona, and then headed the Interior Department for eight years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. His son Tom and nephew Mark also became congressmen and both were elected to the Senate in 2008.

Under Stewart Udall’s leadership from 1961 through 1968, the Interior Department promoted an expansion of public lands and helped win enactment of major environmental laws, including ones to protect endangered species. Secretary Udall helped write several of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, which protects millions of acres from logging, mining and other development.

More than 60 additions were made to the National Park System during the Udall years, including Canyonlands National Park in Utah, North Cascades National Park in Washington, Redwood National Park in California and Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretching from Georgia to Maine.

In a 1963 book, Secretary Udall warned of a “quiet conservation crisis” from pollution, overuse of natural resources and dwindling open spaces. He appealed for a new “land conscience” to preserve the environment.

“If in our haste to ‘progress,’ the economics of ecology are disregarded by citizens and policy makers alike, the result will be an ugly America,” he wrote.

After leaving government service, Secretary Udall taught, practiced law and wrote books. In 1979, he returned to Arizona. He began leading a legal battle against the government he had once served as an influential insider.

He helped bring a lawsuit against the government on behalf of the families of Navajo men who contracted lung cancer mining uranium for the government. Another lawsuit sought compensation for people who lived downwind from aboveground nuclear tests in Nevada during the 1950s and early 1960s.

The lawsuits failed in court, and Secretary Udall said the experience left him angry and discouraged.

But the lawsuits eventually produced results. They provided evidence for congressional investigations into the safety of the nation’s nuclear-weapons complex.

In 1990, the Radiation Exposure Safety Act was enacted to compensate thousands of Americans. Secretary Udall helped write the measure and lobby for its passage.

Secretary Udall, who moved to New Mexico in 1989, is survived by six children and eight grandchildren.