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The Land Legacy Of the Udalls

THERE have been a number of prominent brother acts in Washington over the years: Congressmen John and Phil Burton from the San Francisco area; Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and his congressman brother Sander; the Kennedys, of course.

There is another pair of brothers who did as much as anybody in politics to shape the laws and regulations that protect natural resources in this country. And they did it with a unique sense of vision, and also with a high degree of style, grace, and humor that even their staunchest opponents appreciated.

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Stewart Udall was a member of Congress from Arizona until President John F. Kennedy tapped him to become Interior Secretary in 1961, a post he held through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. When he joined the Kennedy cabinet, Stewart was succeeded in Congress by his brother Morris, who served there for more than 30 years, 14 of those years as chairman of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee.

Between them, the Udalls played a key role in writing and enacting much of the landmark legislation designed to protect the environment: the Wilderness Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Endangered Species Act, the National Trail Systems, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Alaska Lands Act, the Strip-Mining Act, the Nuclear Waste Management Act. Across the American landscape many millions of acres remain pristine thanks to their work.

While he was Interior Secretary, Stewart Udall also wrote ``The Quiet Crisis,'' one of the first works to pick up on Aldo Leopold's ``land ethic'' as a basis for environmental policy (which is now Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's creed). The book made the New York Times bestseller list and was nominated for a National Book Award. Published in 1963 and updated in 1988, it remains one of the best and best-written volumes on the history and importance of the American conservation movement.

Stewart Udall has remained active as an attorney and writer and also as chairman of the Mineral Policy Center, a group working to reform the nation's outmoded hard-rock mining laws. Rep. Morris Udall, who retired from Congress due to illness in 1991, also was an important force in passage of the post-Watergate Campaign Finance Law of 1974 and civil service reform legislation four years later. ``He was legislatively as productive as any politician of his generation,'' says the Almanac of American Politics.

This authoritative political resource also describes Congressman Udall as ``intellectually honest, personally candid, genuinely engaged in ideas while retaining a lively sense of how the real world works ... and refreshingly unfull of himself.'' A mark of the high regard in which the notably liberal Morris Udall was held was his close friendship with the very conservative Barry Goldwater, another Arizonan who ran unsuccessfully for president.

Stewart and Morris Udall were recently honored by the Environmental Law Institute, a research and education center that began work when the tide of major environmental legislation began sweeping over this country about 25 years ago.

At the awards dinner, Attorney General Janet Reno described the Udalls as ``two of my heroes ... a symbol to me of what public service means.'' Surveying the many political battles that remain in the field of the environment today, Attorney General Reno said: ``The most important thing we can do is to start having people talk to each other, and there are no two better examples of that than Morris and Stewart Udall.''

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George Frampton, who headed the Wilderness Society before being named Assistant Secretary of the Interior for fish, wildlife, and parks, called the Udalls ``two giants of the modern conservation movement.'' Morris Udall is a man of ``commitment, courage, substance, and integrity ... and one of the funniest men in American public life,'' he said, and Stewart Udall as Interior Secretary ``will be the standard by which those of us working there today will be judged.''

In ``The Quiet Crisis'' Stewart Udall wrote: ``Each generation has its own rendezvous with the land, for despite our fee titles and claims of ownership, we are all brief tenants on this planet. By choice, or by default, we will carve out a land legacy for our heirs.'' The land legacy left by the Udall brothers is one to be greatly appreciated.

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