In 2001 we invited former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall to give the Humanities address at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Stewart was Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1961 to 1969. He was largely responsible for the enactment of environmental laws including the Clear Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments, the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, the Land and Water Conservation [Fund] Act of 1965, the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, the National Trail System Act of 1968, and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 and for greatly increasing National Park holdings.
Hailed by many as one of the country’s greatest conservationists since Teddy Roosevelt, his appearance at the Gathering was nonetheless controversial in some quarters and created something of a stir during the Gathering.
In what was typical Udall style he delivered an emotional, non-political, speech calling on all Westerners to “end empty disputes and savor the rich land legacy that is their birthright.” He received a resounding standing ovation. It was one of the truly memorable moments in the history of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Stewart passed away March 20, 2010 at the age of 90.