Bruce Babbitt Receives the Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Award
Today the Conservation Lands Foundation staff extends a heartfelt congratulations to our board member and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who just received the esteemed Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Award—presented to an individual whose passion for, dedication, and commitment to the environment are exemplified by his or her efforts to protect the natural world.
As The Dallas Mornings News reports, “… He tackled some of the most complex and controversial issues in public land management, resulting in long-overdue reforms to mining, grazing and endangered species law,” said Luci Johnson, the youngest daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson. “Bruce Babbitt’s lifetime mission and achievement of conservation is surely mother’s dream come true.”
As Secretary during the Clinton Administration, Bruce Babbitt established the National Conservation Lands—28 million acres of the most ecologically rich and culturally significant of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. These are the National Monuments and National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Historic Trails and more that the Conservation Lands Foundation and numerous Friends Grassroots Network organizations are working to protect, restore and expand. By establishing the National Conservation Lands, Babbitt created our nation’s newest collection of protected lands and waterways – standing proudly alongside our National Parks, National Forests and National Wildlife Refuges as treasured places belonging to all Americans.
He also pioneered the use of habitat conservation plans under the Endangered Species Act and worked with President Clinton to create 22 new national monuments, including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona and many others.
Appointed by President Clinton in 1993, Babbitt served for eight years, during which he led in the creation of the forest plan in the Pacific Northwest, restoration of the Florida Everglades, passage of the California Desert Protection Act, legislation for the National Wildlife Refuge system, and the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. As a certified fire fighter, Babbitt brought his front line experience to creating a new federal wild land fire policy that emphasizes the role of fire in maintenance and restoration of natural ecosystems. He is the author of Cities in the Wilderness recently issued by Island Press, in which he lays out a new vision of land use in America.
As Governor of Arizona, he personally negotiated and steered to passage the Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980, which remains the most comprehensive water regulatory system in the nation. He was also responsible for creation of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and a major expansion of the state park system.
Bruce Babbitt faced entrenched opposition to land conservation from extractive industries, off-road vehicle users, anti-federal local elected officials and land developers. He also faced a Congress that was stalemated for much of his tenure at the Interior Department. In addition, he faced the age-old challenge of overcoming government bureaucracy to achieve success during his limited windows of opportunity as Governor and Interior Secretary.
His impressive record of achievement as Governor and Interior Secretary have set the standard by which current and future Interior Secretaries will be measured, and he has not let up in retirement. He has continued full time as a conservation leader with numerous non-profit organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation Lands Foundation. He has been a major advocate for limiting the footprint of development in the Amazon in order to protect its biodiversity, a model that is being replicated throughout Brazil and Peru.
We are fortunate to have the boundless experience and leadership of Bruce Babbitt–qualities he gives so generously to the Conservation Lands Foundation and to the entire conservation community.