- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2010

SANTA FE, New Mexico | Stewart Udall, an elder in a famed political family who led the Interior Department as it promoted an expansion of public lands and helped win passage of major environmental laws, has died at the age of 90.

During his 1961-1969 tenure as interior secretary, Mr. Udall sowed the seeds of the modern environmental movement. He later became a crusader for victims of radiation exposure from the government’s Cold War nuclear programs.

President Obama praised Mr. Udall’s service.

“Whether in the skies above Italy in World War II, in Congress or as secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall left an indelible mark on this nation and inspired countless Americans who will continue his fight for clean air, clean water and to maintain our many natural treasures,” he said.

Mr. Udall died of natural causes Saturday at his home in Santa Fe, surrounded by his children and their families, according to a statement released through the office of his son, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall.

Mr. 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 from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. His son Tom and nephew Mark also became congressmen, then both were elected to the Senate in 2008.

Mr. 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 the Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretching from Georgia to Maine.

The current Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, called Mr. Udall “one of the greatest secretaries of the Interior in my lifetime.”

He “was a pioneer and a visionary in protecting America’s natural resources and cultural heritage who exemplified his family’s commitment to public service,” Mr. Salazar said. “Stewart Udall will be greatly missed.”

In a 1963 book, Mr. 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,” Mr. Udall wrote.

On election night 2008, Mr. Udall looked on proudly from a seat on the podium as son Tom gave his acceptance speech to a rowdy crowd of 1,000 at an Albuquerque hotel. A five-term congressman, the younger Mr. Udall was elected to the Senate seat from New Mexico that had been held by retiring six-term Republican incumbent Pete V. Domenici.

On the same day, Morris Udall’s son Mark, also a veteran congressman, was elected to the Senate from Colorado, while Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican whose mother was a Udall, lost a bid for a third term in Oregon. Another Udall cousin, Steve, unsuccessfully sought a seat in Congress from Arizona in 2002.

“I wouldn’t call it a dynasty,” Stewart Udall once said. “We’re all pretty individualistic.”

Mr. Udall, born in St. Johns, Arizona, on Jan. 31, 1920, was raised on a farm in the desert country near the Arizona-New Mexico line, an area settled in 1879 by Mormons led by his missionary grandfather.

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