James G. Watt

James G. Watt

Infobox US Cabinet official
name=James G. Watt

title=United States Secretary of the Interior
term_start=January 23, 1981
term_end=November 8, 1983
predecessor=Cecil D. Andrus
successor=William P. Clark, Jr.
president=Ronald Reagan
birth_date=birth date and age|1938|1|31
birth_place=flagicon|Wyoming Lusk, Wyoming

James Gaius Watt (born January 31, 1938 in Lusk, Wyoming) served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1983.

Early career

Watt attended the University of Wyoming, earning a bachelor's degree in 1960 and a law degree in 1962. Watt's first political job was as an aide to Republican Senator Milward L. Simpson of Wyoming, whom he met through Simpson's son, Alan.

In 1966, Watt became the secretary to the natural resources committee and environmental pollution advisory panel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 1969, Watt was appointed the deputy assistant secretary of water and power development in the Department of the Interior. In 1975, Watt was appointed the vice-chairman of the Federal Power Commission. In 1976, Watt founded the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm that represents clients on a pro bono basis. Its stated mission was to further the cause of individual liberties, especially in the realm of economic and property rights, [ [http://www.mountainstateslegal.org/index.cfm Mountain States Legal Foundation ] ] though environmental groups have criticized it as "training ground for a number of attorneys most active in the anti-environmental movement." [ [http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=54 ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Mountain States Legal Foundation ] ] A number of attorneys who worked for Watt at the foundation later assumed positions of responsibility in the federal government, including Ann Veneman and Gale Norton.

ecretary of Interior

Watt's tenure as Secretary of the Interior was marked by controversy, stemming primarily from his alleged hostility to environmentalism and his support of the development and use of federal lands by foresting, ranching, and other commercial interests.

For over two decades, Watt held the record for protecting the fewest species under the Endangered Species Act in United States history. The record was broken by Dirk Kempthorne, a George W. Bush appointee who, as of August 27, 2007, had not listed a single species in the 15 months since his confirmation. [http://www.ewire.com/display.cfm/Wire_ID/4171 Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award : Protects Fewer Species Than Any Interior Secretary in History] ]

Greg Wetstone, who was the chief environment council at the House Energy and Commerce Committee during the Reagan administration and later served as director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Watt was one of the two most "intensely controversial and blatantly anti-environmental political appointees" in American history. [ [http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2004/06/10/griscom-reagan/ A look back at Reagan's environmental record | By Amanda Griscom | Grist | Muckraker | 10 Jun 2004 ] ] According to the environmental groups, Watt decreased funding for environmental programs, [http://www.bookrags.com/James_G._Watt James G. Watt Summary Review and Analysis ] ] restructured the department to decrease federal regulatory power, wished to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which had been designed to increase the size of National Wildlife Refuges and other protected land), eased regulations on oil and mining [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1169/is_n4_v33/ai_16971135 Cracking down on mining pollution - environmental lawyer Thomas Galloway develops Applicant/Violator System to find violators of mining law | National Wildlife | Find Articles at BNET.com ] ] companies, and favored opening wilderness areas and shorelands for oil and gas leases.

Watt resisted accepting donations of private land to be used for conservation purposes. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,926267,00.html The Legacy of James Watt] "Time" Oct. 24, 1983] He suggested that all 80 million acres (320,000 km²) of undeveloped land in the United States be opened for drilling and mining in the year 2000. The area leased to coal mining companies quintupled during his term as Secretary of the Interior. Watt proudly boasted that he leased "a billion acres" (4 million km²) of U.S. coastal waters, even though only a small portion of that area would ever be drilled. Watt once stated, "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber." [ [http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipientprofile.php?recipientID=1082 Mountain States Legal Foundation ] ]

Watt periodically mentioned his Christian faith when discussing his approach to environmental management. Speaking before Congress, he once said, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations." [ [http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/009475.php Power Line: Bill Moyers Smears a Better Man Than Himself ] ]

One apocryphal quote by Watt is "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back"; there is no indication he actually ever said this. Glenn Scherer, writing for "Grist", erroneously placed this remark in Watt's testimony to Congress. [cite web
title=The Godly Must Be Crazy
] . Journalist Bill Moyers, relying on the "Grist" article, mistakenly attributed the comment to Watt. After it was discovered that the quote was mistaken, Grist corrected their article and Moyers promptly apologized [cite journal
title=Bill Moyers Apologizes to James Watt for Apocryphal Quote
journal=Editor & Publisher
] . Watt has denied both the attribution and the associated characterizations of his policy. [cite news
title=The Religious Left's Lies
work=The Washington Post

Other controversies

In 1983, Watt banned The Beach Boys from playing a Fourth of July concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., saying that rock concerts drew "an undesirable element"; the group had played on the Mall each Fourth of July since 1980. This drew howls of outrage from many of the Beach Boys' fans, who stated that the Beach Boys sound was a very desirable part of the American cultural fabric. First Lady Nancy Reagan later apologized, and in 1984 the group appeared on the Mall again.

Watt told a television audience on January 19, 1983 that "If you want an example of the failures of socialism, don't go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations."

A public controversy erupted after a speech by Watt on September 21, 1983, when he said about his staff: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." [http://www.bartleby.com/63/56/556.html 556. James G Watt, US Secretary of the Interior. Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations. 1988 ] ] Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter. [ [http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah07667.xml RMOA - Document ] ]

Later career

In 1995, Watt was indicted on 25 counts of felony perjury and obstruction of justice by a federal grand jury. [ [http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/5939345/crimes_against_nature/ Crimes Against Nature : Rolling Stone ] ] The indictments were due to false statements made to a grand jury investigating influence peddling at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he had lobbied in the mid to late 1980s. On January 2, 1996, as part of a plea bargain, Watt pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of withholding documents from a federal grand jury. On March 12, 1996 he was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service. [ [http://www.cnn.com/US/Newsbriefs/9603/03-12/index.html CNN - U.S. Briefs - March 12, 1996 ] ]

During a March 1991 dinner event organized by the Green River Cattlemen's Association in Wyoming, Watt said, "If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used." [ [http://search.phoenixnewtimes.com/1991-08-07/news/the-earth-s-storm-troopers/ Phoenix - News - The Earth'S Storm Troopers ] ] [ [http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13117875.900.html Feedback - 21 September 1991 - New Scientist ] ]

In a 2001 interview, Watt applauded the Bush administration energy strategy and said their prioritization of oil drilling and coal mining above conservation is just what he recommended in the early 1980s.http://courses.washington.edu/alisonta/pbaf590/pdf/watt_applauds_energy.pdf] "Everything Cheney's saying, everything the president's saying - they're saying exactly what we were saying 20 years ago, precisely ... Twenty years later, it sounds like they've just dusted off the old work."


External links

* Wolf, Ron. 1981. "God, James Watt, and the Public Land". Audubon 83(3):65
* Time magazine article (August 23, 1982) [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,7601820823,00.html Going, Going...! Land sale of the century]

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