1981 Scorecard Vote
After the President, the Secretary of Interior has more power than anyone else in government over the nation's public lands and natural resources. The Secretary of Interior is steward over a quarter of the nation's land area, and 300 million acres on the outer-continental shelf. The Secretary is required by many laws to carefully balance the grazing, timber and mining interests with fish and wildlife conservation, watershed protection, wilderness and recreational needs.
Watt's positions on virtually every important Interior Department program were well known and documented when he was nominated. As President and chief legal officer of the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) Watt initiated many lawsuits to stop or impede federal programs to protect the environment. For example, MSLF 1) tried to block efforts to control overgrazing on public lands; 2) repeatedly sued to stop EPA from controlling air pollution; 3) promoted diversion of water away from Wild Rivers already in danger of drying up; and 4) fought restrictions on oil development in wilderness study areas.
MSLF is funded by corporations and trade associations who stand to gain or lose billions of dollars because of Interior Department policies. Watt could not be expected to evenhandedly regulate the same interest groups he had previously represented, while also serving a broader public interest as Secretary of Interior. Watt's record in his first year confirmed environmentalists' worst expectations. The Wilderness Society's Watt Book concluded that he "has done more to dismantle long-standing conservation law...than any other person ever to hold his office." Watt's nomination confirmed 83-12 (Republicans 50-0, Democrats 33-12); January 22, 1981. NO is the pro-environment vote.