Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to speak at UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt will visit the University of Georgia on Monday, Oct. 24, to discuss and sign his new book, “Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America.”  The book, published by Island Press, makes a case for the importance of establishing a national land-use policy that ensures a balance between development and conservation.

Babbitt’s talk will be given at the Institute of Ecology auditorium at 4 p.m., and copies of his book will be available for sale.  The talk is free and open to the public.

Babbitt served as secretary of the interior during the Clinton administration.  During his tenure, he oversaw numerous landmark environmental programs, including the restoration of the Florida Everglades, the return of the wolf to Yellowstone, and the dismantling of dams across California.  He also helped enact the California Desert Protection Act, which established the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve, and was instrumental in the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. 

As impressive as these large-scale projects are, Babbitt sees them as piecemeal attempts to maintain ecological balance. 

“We’ve got to have a larger agenda than saying we’re defending the Endangered Species Act,” he recently told an audience in Colorado.

“If we could identify the problems early on, before the downward spiral sets in, we would have more flexibility to design land use plans that accommodate both development and protection,” Babbitt also said.  “Protecting large-scale ecosystems can be done through national leadership and legislation that sets standards and invites and gives incentives to the states to participate.”

In a September op-ed piece in the “Washington Post,” Babbitt cited Hurricane Katrina and rising sea levels as good reasons for federal involvement in “a comprehensive plan, not just for New Orleans but also…the entire delta region.”

“The important lesson is: no piecemeal responses. Hurricanes strike randomly, and they must be countered with broad strategic plans,” he said.  “Begin at the state level by creating a regional water management agency modeled on the Florida experience, given powers and financing adequate to the task.”

Babbitt, who also served two terms as governor of Arizona from 1978- 1987, graduated from Notre Dame with a B.A. in geology, earned a M.S. in geophysics from the University of Newcastle, England, and a LL.B. from Harvard Law School.