During Earth Week and National Parks Week, it’s time to honor the pioneers who gave us the legislation that has protected our environment since those heady days of the first Earth Day.
The most influential was Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969. His achievements include the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, pesticide protection, mining reclamation, and the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Older Seattleites will remember Udall as a champion of the North Cascades National Park and the National Scenic Trails Act, which created the Pacific Crest Trail, passed in 1968.
Since my team has been interviewing those who knew Udall best for our documentary film “Stewart Udall and the Politics of Beauty,” we’ve learned that he was about much more than the environment. He actively challenged racism in the National Park System and the Bureau of Indian Affairs; fought for arts and culture; traveled to the Soviet Union to encourage an atmospheric nuclear test ban and later fought for “downwinders” who got cancer from such tests; and Navajos who died from mining uranium without being warned of the dangers.
“His legacy lives on,” says current Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Indeed it should.
John de Graaf, Seattle