Friday, February 11, 2005

James Watt Replies to Bill Moyers

Secretary Watt provided me with a copy of his response to Moyers' insulting apology. The letter is a hum-dinger, and is copied in full after the jump.

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February 10, 2005

Mr. Bill Moyers
PBS/Public Broadcasting Service
450 W. 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001-2603

Dear Mr. Moyers:

Thank you for your apology of February 8th.

I, of course, never said what you wrongfully attributed to me; nor have I ever thought it or believed it: Your quote -
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate. . .
Nor do I know any Christian who has ever taken such a position of intentionally ignoring or damaging the environment - as your letter of apology struggles to establish.

I understand how you could find other documents in the public domain critical of actions we took under the law. I often said if I believed the Washington Press Corps, I would dislike James Watt. I found that most often reporters just took what some special interest group said I said and reported it as fact. Then the next reporter just quoted the Washington Post or Time or etc., or as in the present case, they have and will quote Bill Moyers. And the lies just keep rolling on.

As a practical matter, neither you nor I will be able to turn off the lies of the Grist story and your expansion on that quote. Grist expanded (way over the top) on the false quote it got from an extremely unreliable book; and you then expanded on the Grist quote.

When I became the Secretary of the Interior, I knew that I was responsible for my character. “Character is who you are; reputation is what others say you are.” Others would control my reputation. My reputation has been impacted wonderfully by the marvelous supporters who cheered the great work our team did for the Nation. And negatively, by the arrogant Washington Press Corps that knows they can not be sued by a ‘public figure’ for libelous lies and misrepresentations; the selfish interest groups, like the handful of Washington based environmental groups that raised tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars by smearing my name and totally misrepresenting the Reagan record; and publications, like Grist, which to advance their agenda, exercise a reckless disregard for decency and truth.

In your letter to me, you said you found it ‘baffling,’ that I was “unaware of how some fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible influence political attitudes toward the environment.” And then you added that these Christians “have such a deep distrust of science that they ignore what is happening to our environment and contribute to advancing a political and corporate agenda that has no concern for the morrow. You (Watt) said you (Watt) had heard nothing of this phenomenon. . .”

You may be ‘baffled’ and you may think I am ill-informed, or worse, but the fact is, I am not aware of Christians who are determined to destroy the environment. Further, I am exposed only to Christians that do care for the environment. Somewhere in the world there may be Christians who are not concerned for the environment, I just do not know them or know about them.

In the communities of Christians I am associated with, we all know that we have a stewardship role to play. And that is our Biblical Worldview. That worldview does influence our agenda and that is why I had the integrity to talk about my faith and the government policies which put people in the environmental equation as we exercised our responsibilities of stewardship.

Now it is my turn to be ‘baffled.’ You stated that you found my policies to be “abysmally at odds with what I (Moyers) understand as a Christian to be our obligation to be stewards of the earth.” Such a statement suggests strongly that you have not read the record, which is easily available, or specifically my testimony of Feb. 5, 1981 before the House Interior Committee. I have been quick to profess my Christian commitment and on that particular day spoke openly and forcefully demonstrating that my Christian views compelled us to be good stewards of the resources of the land for the benefit of future generations. The testimony was well received by the committee members.

Some time after that, we saw the anti-Christian hatred pour out in the form of political cartoons and columnists’ statements and a few Washington based environmental groups distorting the truth beyond recognition. The anti-Christian ‘hate-mail’ followed. But, soon decent folks spoke up - Members of Congress, religious leaders and community thought leaders. The American community started to rally and the matter died down.

In your letter to me, you say, referring to the libelous lies of Grist, “those or similar quotes had also appeared through the years in many other publications – in the Washington Post and Time, for example --- I too easily assumed their legitimacy.” (my emphasis) Yes, you did. No doubt the politically active environmental groups did repeat the “old lies” over and over. That does not make them true. I have no reason to believe that in later years the legitimate press repeated them, as you suggest. Certainly no such statements came from me. If you can give me the quotes from the Washington Post and Time and the books you said you relied on as you were preparing your speech, I will address them also.

With a little, very little, research one will find that “there is no historical record” for many of the things the liberal environmental community has slipped into print.

I do not want to embarrass you about the primary research you have done on my well-documented public record, but have you read any of the three Annual Reports to the President and the Congress that the government printing office published on our marvelous accomplishments of stewardship? Which of the Congressional Hearings records did you read where I presented to the Congress our plans and programs for stewardship? And, by the way, the Congress approved and funded everything we did.

In the letter of Introduction to the Third Annual Report to the President and the Congress I say:

“All the lands (one-third of the Nation) managed by the Department of the Interior are in better condition today than they were three years ago when we took responsibility for them. Because we have cared and exercised stewardship, the parks, refuges, forests, coastal barriers, wetlands and deserts are being better managed. This is also true for the wildlife living on these lands.”

Our National Park System is the envy of the world. Unfortunately funds to restore and improve the parks were cut by 50 percent in the four years prior to our arrival. To reverse that trend, we implemented a $1 Billion Park Restoration and Improvement Program (PRIP). Our program was the largest commitment that had ever been made to the National Park System.

Am I to understand that you did not support the largest program ever created to restore and improve our National Parks – a $1 billion five year program commencing in 1981? What did Grist tell you about that program?

Your primary research, or Grist’s, would have pointed out that in 1983 alone, through trade, donations and purchase, we added more park and wildlife land to the federal estate than any previous Administration added in a single year since Alaska was purchased in 1867. In fact, in that single year, we added more park and wildlife land to the federal estate than was added from 1977 to 1980. Neither Teddy Roosevelt, nor Franklin Roosevelt, nor your Lyndon Johnson, nor Jimmy Carter came close to our 1983 record of adding to the Federal park and wildlife estate in a single year.

Knowing that fact causes you to call my policies ‘abysmal’?

What is it that you do not like about the fact that during my tenure, we acquired for the Federal Government more than 1.6 million acres of land to be managed as national parks and wildlife refuges? In addition, we recommended or supported additions totaling more than 1.8 million acres to our great wilderness system in the Lower 48 States. Are you opposed to that?

In 1981, we were concerned that surface-mined lands were not being properly reclaimed. I trust you were. The officials in all the mining states were greatly troubled with the requirements of the Department of the Interior as it related to surface-mined land reclamation. The previous Administration had adopted a ‘cookie cutter’ approach as to the requirements for reclaiming mined lands. The Wyoming authorities told me that they could not comply with such demands as planting Maple trees, as they do in Pennsylvania, on the sagebrush prairies of Wyoming.

Thus, we re-wrote the entire surface-mined land reclamation requirements with the involvement of the experts from Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and other mining states so that climatic conditions, geology, wildlife habitat requirements and other factors could be considered. As an example, the State of West Virginia did not want to be required to return all the mined land to its ‘original contour’ as the previous Administration demanded. They wanted some flat land for schools, hospitals, shopping centers, housing projects, etc. That sounded reasonable to me, but not to our critics. They called it a ‘sell out to the mining industry;’ every thing was contested in the courts. As in all other arenas of battle, we prevailed. I hope you support meeting the needs of people.

We did these things because we believed in stewardship and putting people in the environmental equation. In your primary research you would have found the Congressional testimony about these significant changes. Each state would be responsible for exercising stewardship in the reclaiming of the surface-mined land. It is interesting to note that these actions were not significantly changed when the Democrats took control of the Department for eight years during the Clinton years.

You or your friends at Grist can turn to page 7 of my Third Annual Report to the President and the Congress and read:

Endangered Species Recovery
One of our highest priorities over the past three years has been the development of recovery plans for our endangered and threatened wildlife and plant species. In our three years, we have approved or developed nearly three times as many endangered species recovery plans as were processed the entire four year period from 1977 to 1980.

The difference in focus (recover versus listing) in our program is a result of our stewardship philosophy and our ultimate goal of restoring species so that they no longer are endangered or threatened. Exceptional progress toward this goal is being realized.
It is tempting to go on and on, but my letter is already too long. I am attaching a copy of the letter I sent to President Reagan in October of 1983. In that letter you will find that ‘stewardship’ is the theme. I ended the letter by saying, “Mr. President, our excellent record for managing the natural resources of this land is unequaled – because we put people in the environmental equation.”

It is unequaled, Mr. Moyers. I do not believe you will find figures, statistics or facts showing that it has ever been done better. You will get feelings and opinions contrary to my presentation, but they will not be substantiated by facts.

In reviewing this record (and I have only presented a small portion of it) one can only conclude that you are ill informed of the facts. While there is always room for improvement, no informed person can review the facts and say our record is at odds with Christian stewardship of the natural resources and environment.

James G. Watt