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AGGRESSIVE, BALANCED & LEARNING
As a longtime advocate of stringent measures to protect the environment, SI is concerned about Ronald Reagan's selection of Wyoming-born lawyer James G. Watt, 42, to be Secretary of the Interior. As a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 1960s, Watt vigorously opposed both tighter federal controls over industrial water pollution and stepped-up government efforts to reclaim strip-mined land. In his current position as president of the ultraconservative, Denver-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, he has consistently battled environmentalists and the Interior Department on the side of developers. In a Christmas Eve press conference following his nomination, he pledged to move "in an aggressive manner" to lease more public lands for oil, gas and coal exploration. He also assailed environmental "extremists," whom he described as "those who would deny economic development, those who would deny balanced management of our resources for the benefit of consumers and all Americans."
There is reason to question Watt's notion of "balanced" management. In an interview last week with SI Senior Writer Robert H. Boyle, Watt was asked whether the accelerated development he had in mind might not exacerbate the problem of acid rain, which has damaged fish and crops in the eastern U.S. and Canada. "I've got a lot of learning to do," Watt replied. Taken at face value, the answer was more distressing than disarming. Watt seemed to be confessing, in effect, that he has been extolling policies whose costs—both in terms of human health and economic damage—he hadn't yet fully assessed.
More encouraging, Watt told Boyle he would uphold "absolutely" the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which empowers the Interior Department to, among other things, designate and protect wilderness areas. He also said he would name professionals rather than political appointees to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. And he suggested that he was being wrongly cast as an anti-environmentalist. In addition to his jobs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Mountain States Legal Foundation, Watt logged seven years as an Interior Department aide during the Nixon and Ford Administrations, an experience he invoked when he said, "The so-called environmentalists should read my record. No candidate could have a better public record, I'm challenging you to look at it."
Interior Department sources confirm that Watt's stands on environmental matters during his years in government service weren't quite as disturbing as his pronouncements in private life might suggest. Referring to Watt's performance as head of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation from 1972 to 1975, one official says, "His record wasn't bad at all. He fought for the bureau's programs, got its funding increased considerably and was an effective and articulate spokesman for outdoor recreation. He didn't have the reputation environmentalists are now painting." Watt's record at Interior was also cited by Norman B. ( Ike) Livermore, the head of Reagan's Environmental Protection Agency transition team and a former director of the National Audubon Society. Livermore said that environmentalists might well be "pleasantly surprised" with both Reagan and Watt.
Such a surprise would be welcome indeed.
BREAKING THE RABBIT HABIT
Landon Y. Jones, a senior editor at PEOPLE, has written a book, Great Expectations, dealing with the profound and continuing impact that the post-World War II baby boom has exerted on American society. Jones finds that because of their sheer numbers, the 76.4 million "baby boomers"—those Americans born between 1946 and 1964—have significantly influenced music, fashion and politics, and have been forced to compete in inevitably overcrowded college and job markets. One other possible legacy of the baby boom: the soaring popularity of baseball in recent years.