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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James G. Watt

In office
January 23, 1981 – November 8, 1983
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Cecil D. Andrus
Succeeded by William P. Clark, Jr.

Born January 31, 1938 (1938-01-31) (age 72)
Wyoming Lusk, Wyoming
Political party Republican
Alma mater University of Wyoming
Religion Pentecostal

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


Early life and career

Watt was born in Lusk, Wyoming. He 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 law firm "dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government and economic freedom."[1] 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.

Secretary of Interior

In 1980, President-elect Reagan chose Watt to be his Secretary of the Interior. He was soon after approved by the United States Senate.

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.

According to the environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, 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. [2]

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. (The other was Anne Gorsuch, head of the EPA at that time.)[3] According to the environmental groups, Watt decreased funding for environmental programs,[4] restructured the department to decrease federal regulatory power,[4] 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),[4] eased regulations on oil[4] and mining[5][4] companies, and favored opening wilderness areas and shorelands for oil and gas leases.[4]

Watt resisted accepting donations of private land to be used for conservation purposes.[6] 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.[6] The area leased to coal mining companies quintupled during his term as Secretary of the Interior.[6] 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.[6] Watt once stated, "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."[7]

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."[8]

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.[9]. 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 [10]. Watt has denied both the attribution and the associated characterizations of his policy.[11]


Other controversies

From 1980 through 1982, The Beach Boys and The Grass Roots performed Independence Day concerts on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., attracting large crowds.[12][13] However, in April 1983, Watt, while serving as Secretary of the Interior, banned Independence Day concerts on the Mall by such groups. Watt said that "rock bands" that had performed on the Mall on Independence Day in 1981 and 1982 had encouraged drug use and alcoholism and had attracted the "the wrong element", who would mug people and families attending any similar events in the future.[13] Watt then announced that Las Vegas crooner Wayne Newton, a friend and supporter of President Reagan and a contributor to Republican Party political campaigns, would perform at the Mall's 1983 Independence Day celebration.[13][14] During the ensuing uproar, Rob Grill, lead singer of The Grass Roots, stated that he felt "highly insulted" by Watt's remarks, which he called "nothing but un-American".[13] The Beach Boys stated that the Soviet Union, which had invited them to perform in Leningrad in 1978, "obviously .... did not feel that the group attracted the wrong element".[13] Vice President George H. W. Bush said of The Beach Boys, "They're my friends and I like their music".[13] Watt apologized to The Beach Boys after learning that President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan were fans of the group.[15] Nancy Reagan apologized for Watt.[16] White House staff presented Watt with a plaster foot with a hole in it, symbolizing his having shot himself in the foot with his decision.[17] When Newton entered an Independence Day stage on the Mall on July 4, 1983, members of the audience booed him.[15][18]

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 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by Watt in September 1983, when he mocked affirmative action by saying about a coal-leasing panel: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent."[19] Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter.[19][20] The next year, The Beach Boys gave an Independence Day concert on the National Mall to an audience of 750,000 people.[21][22]

Later life

In 1995, Watt was indicted on 25 counts of felony perjury and obstruction of justice by a federal grand jury.[23] 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.[24]

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."[25][26]

In a 2001 interview, Watt applauded the Bush administration energy strategy and said its prioritization of oil drilling and coal mining above conservation is just what he recommended in the early 1980s.[27] "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."[27]


  1. ^ Mountain States Legal Foundation
  2. ^ Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award : Protects Fewer Species Than Any Interior Secretary in History
  3. ^ A look back at Reagan's environmental record | By Amanda Griscom | Grist | Muckraker | 10 Jun 2004
  4. ^ a b c d e f James G. Watt Summary Review and Analysis
  5. ^ Cracking down on mining pollution - environmental lawyer Thomas Galloway develops Applicant/Violator System to find violators of mining law | National Wildlife | Find Articles at
  6. ^ a b c d The Legacy of James Watt Time Oct. 24, 1983
  7. ^ Mountain States Legal Foundation
  8. ^ Power Line: Bill Moyers Smears a Better Man Than Himself
  9. ^ Scherer, Glenn (2004-10-27). "The Godly Must Be Crazy". Grist. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  10. ^ Strupp, Joe (2005-02-09). "Bill Moyers Apologizes to James Watt for Apocryphal Quote". Editor & Publisher. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  11. ^ Watt, James (2005-05-12). "The Religious Left's Lies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  12. ^ "July 4: Day of Music, Parades, Fireworks", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., July 3, 1982, p. D1.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Phil McCombs, "Watt Outlaws Rock Music on Mall for July 4", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., April 6, 1983, p. A1; Phil McCombs and Richard Harrington, "Watt Sets Off Uproar with Music Ban", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., April 7, 1983, pp. A1, A17.
  14. ^ Campaign contributions of Wayne Newton in website of NEWSMEAT by Polity Media, Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  15. ^ a b Tim Ahern, Associated Press, "Newton concert goes off despite rain", Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 5, 1983, p. 7 in Google news. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
  16. ^ "The Beach Boys Bio" in website of by Yuddy, LLC. © and TM Yuddy, LLC. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  17. ^ Associated Press, "Newton Performance Dampened by Rain", Reading Eagle, Reading, Pennsylvania, July 5, 1983, p. 27,in Google news. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
  18. ^ John Katsilometes,"Newton’s recounting of Beach Boys controversy a telling moment in ‘Once Before I Go’", in "The Kats Report", October 30, 2009, in website of the Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  19. ^ a b 556. James G Watt, US Secretary of the Interior. Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations. 1988
  20. ^ RMOA - Document
  21. ^ Richard Harrington, "Back to the Beach Boys: Rock Returns to Mall For the Fourth of July; Beach Boys to Perform On the Mall July 4", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., June 6, 1984, p. B1.
  22. ^ Timeline on website of The Beach Boys by Capitol Records. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  23. ^ Crimes Against Nature : Rolling Stone (p. 3)
  24. ^ CNN - U.S. Briefs - March 12, 1996
  25. ^ Phoenix - News - The Earth'S Storm Troopers
  26. ^ Feedback - 21 September 1991 - New Scientist
  27. ^ a b

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Cecil D. Andrus
United States Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
William Patrick Clark


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

James G. Watt (born 1938-01-31) was the 43rd United States Secretary of the Interior; he served from January 23, 1981 to November 8, 1983.



  • My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns.
    • The Washington Post, May 24, 1981
  • That is the delicate balance the Secretary of the Interior must have: to be steward for the natural resources for this generation as well as future generations. 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.
    • Testimony before the House Interior Committee, February 1981
  • "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."
    • Quoted in Media Transparency [1]
  • "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."
    • Watt praising Bush energy and environmental policies Watt Applauds Bush Energy Strategy Denver Post May 16, 2001
  • "If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used."
    • The Earth's Storm Troopers Phoenix New Times August 7, 1991 also [2].
  • We have every mixture you can have. I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.
    • Speaking before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on September 21, 1983, in reference to members of the U.S. Commission on Fair Market Value Policy for Federal Coal Leasing
  • Liberals have shifted government into a position of being neutral between right and wrong. By concentrating power in government institutions, liberals chisel at the three pillars of society: the family unit, work ethic and faith. That's not good for America.
    • U.S. News and World Report, November 11, 1985


  • I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans.
    • 1982[citation needed]


  • God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.
    • Attributed in Austin Miles, Setting the Captives Free (ISBN 978-0879756178) and widely repeated after appearing in in Grist magazine (Scherer, Glenn (2004-10-27). "The Godly Must Be Crazy." ). Grist has since retracted and apologized for Scherer's comment, noting that the quotation appears nowhere in Watt's Congressional testimony or any other source it could find. Watt has responded:
      I never said it. Never believed it. Never even thought it. I know no Christian who believes or preaches such error. The Bible commands conservation—that we as Christians be careful stewards of the land and resources entrusted to us by the Creator.

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