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This is a sad week in the history of conservation: this past Saturday Stewart Udall, in my view our nation’s greatest Secretary of the Interior, died at age 90.

We at EARTHWORKS are proud to have worked with Secretary Udall. In 1988, he helped found our organization, and served as the chairman of our board of directors for a decade, providing guidance and leadership in our efforts to protect communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mineral development in the U.S. and worldwide.

Udall represented Arizona for six years in Congress, and then headed the U.S. Interior Department for eight years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Under Udall’s leadership from 1961 through 1968, the Interior Department aggressively promoted an expansion of public lands, creating over 60 national parks, and stewarded the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which protected millions of acres from development. Later, Udall sued the federal government on behalf of Navajo uranium miners and people suffering health impacts from aboveground nuclear tests.

Udall’s brother was the late 15-term congressman Morris Udall, and his sons Tom and nephew Mark also became congressmen. Both were elected to the Senate in 2008 where they currently serve.

A number of contributors to the EARTHblog this week have shared their remembrances of Secretary Udall. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him.

  • Phil Hocker, EARTHWORKS cofounder (along with Udall and Michael McCloskey) and president through 1997
  • Michael McCloskey, EARTHWORKS cofounder (and board chair from 1997 to 2001), and Sierra Club executive director (1969-1987)
  • Jim Lyon, EARTHWORKS Vice President for Policy in the early 1990’s and current Vice President of Conservation Policy at the National Wildlife Federation.
  • Cathy Carlson, EARTHWORKS current Policy Advisor and longtime advocate for clean water and healthy communities
  • Karin Sheldon, Chair of EARTHWORKS Board of Directors from 2001-2010 and current Executive Director of Western Resource Advocates.
  • Stephen D’Esposito, EARTHWORKS’ second president from 1997-2008 and current President of RESOLVE.

The Washington Post has published an excellent photo gallery here. And for a view of the world in the late Stewart Udall’s own words, read the letter he wrote to our grandchildren, published in the High Country News in 2008.