On June 28th former four-term Idaho governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus will make a presentation in Vail, Colorado to the top donors to the The Carter Center on the how of achieving President Carter’s greatest legacy, the setting aside of 103 million acres of virgin Alaska lands into the four major preservation systems---national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and new wild and scenic rivers.
With passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Areas (ANILCA) legislation on December 1st followed by an immediate signing into law by President Carter on December 2nd, 1980, Carter surpassed President Theodore Roosevelt as the greatest friend of conservation in the history of the White House.
As many Idahoans know, the key to the success was the then Interior Secretary convincing President Carter to use his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare much of Alaska to be National Monuments in 1978. The President followed the advice which overnight literally forced opponents led by the Alaska Congressional delegation to stop opposing legislation and instead start supporting legislation to undo the much more restrictive national monument designation. The same tactic now appears necessary if the pristine alpine areas of the Boulder/White Clouds are to receive appropriate protection.
In helping to prepare his presentation I was reminded of two colorful stories that have gone largely unreported.
1) Gotcha. In the summer of 1978, Andrus put together and personally led 30 members of the nation’s media on a ten-day, once in a lifetime tour of many of the proposed set asides. It led to numerous supportive stories in media across the nation.
Alaska’s senior senator, Ted Stevens, was furious. He accused Andrus of lobbying with public money, something the Senator himself had been accused of years before when at the Interior department he had openly used public resources to campaign for Alaskan statehood.
Even though a Republican in the minority at that time, Majority Leader Robert Byrd let Stevens act as the de facto chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee. Thus, in the fall, Stevens commanded Andrus to appear before the committee to defend the public affairs budget and the public costs of the tour. (more…)