About Me

My photo
He started his career in the family real estate and hotel business in Florida from which his concern for the environment steered him in public life. He has served six Florida governors and two presidents in many positions, including terms as chairman of the Florida Department of Air and Water Pollution Control, and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Beyond his government service, he helped found 1000 Friends of Florida and has served as both president and chairman of the board of the organization. He currently or has served on the boards of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic Society, Yellowstone National Park, Everglades Foundation and Hope Rural School.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garden Club of America-Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal Acceptance Speech

Nathaniel P. Reed on May 15, 2010 in East Brunswick, New Jersey

Mrs. Harris George: President of the Garden Club of America, Mrs. Gongaware, Members of the Awards Committee, Distinguished Members of the host Zone 4 Clubs and my sponsors and supporters, members of this distinguished club of clubs.

My grandchildren are at the stage were ‘awesome’ is a common expression. I echo that word – that expression of awe combined with delight as I stand before you. The citation and the Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal are breathtaking.

I am rarely ‘overwhelmed’ and as I am at a stage in life’s mysterious journey where accolades usually mean that one is finished with their work and that they have accomplished some goal. In my case, although the last chapter’s pages may be turning, I feel energized with multiple projects that fascinate me and are worthy of long days of sometime tiresome work. The Everglades Restoration effort alone is a monumental task, as great an effort as building the Panama Canal. Progress has been slow, but now, suddenly, with extraordinary vigor the federal and state agencies are working as one and great progress is being made. I have never been more excited or energized. Yes, there will be stumbles but if the project is funded, we will live to see a revitalized everglades ecosystem.

I am the most fortunate of a cadre of environmental leaders who worked during a period where the administration and the Congress agreed on a multitude of laws that literally changed America and gave the rest of the world ethical targets to attempt to achieve.

The Clean Water, Clean Air Acts alone where monumental achievements, but add to that list the national forest acts, the land management acts, the great expansion of the system of national parks and national refuges in Alaska, think of it 95 plus million acres forever protected. Let’s not forget the all important National Environmental Policy Act or the Marine Mammal Act! There were many decisions that have shaped our national environmental foundation representing eight magnificent years of progress.

We added thousands of acres of wetlands for waterfowl production areas and thousands more for wintering grounds. The numbers of birds, far beyond waterfowl that utilize these areas are countless.

Working with one of the greatest groups of women and men ever assembled by an administration, we secured presidential executive orders banning the use of the terrible poison, 1080, that was designed to kill coyotes, whether or not any of them had ever killed a sheep. 1080 indiscriminately killed thousands of non target animals and nearly decimated the western Bald and Golden eagle populations. We worked collectively to obtain a ban of the use of DDT just in time to stop the doomsday prognostications of eggs shell thinning so brilliantly explained by Rachel Carlson.

Perhaps the most lasting, the most important legislation that passed with hardly a whimper was the Endangered Species Act. Dr. E.O. Wilson and many others of our nation’s most prominent ecologists have declared the Act the most important environmental action of the 20th century. The hours spent negotiating and word-smithing every word, every sentence and every paragraph was worth the toil. We ended up, those of us that had a hand in its creation, as a Band of Brothers.

We shared Teddy Roosevelt’s strongest belief that ‘humans should never take more from the earth than they put back’.

The most amazing part of these historic, far reaching efforts was the incredible era where Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate could disagree, often vehemently, but always with a sense of responsibility and admiration for the other members’ points of view. Yes, there were compromises, now a seemingly detested word that allowed these sweeping changes for a new more responsible American environmental ethic.

I am the beneficiary of that period because except for a very few individuals in Congress, whose attitudes were Neanderthal, we worked together in surprising harmony. Members listened to each other, cared about each other and worked collectively with each other and those of us who managed the key environmental agencies.

I pray that after this current period of constant controversy another era will begin that brings educated and well meaning men and women together in our legislative halls to work for the betterment of our beloved country.

Working with Secretary Salazar and his staff gives me great hope that his leadership can bridge the great divides that are now common in the halls of our Capitol.

The Garden Club of America has championed the vast majority of the objectives that are the foundation of our country’s environmental ethic. Each of you and your predecessors are partners in cultivating a lasting vision of an America that we can be jointly proud of.

That vision, those goals must never be lost and should be a driving force behind you: you, who are an extraordinary membership of caring, resourceful, knowledgeable, energized and caring individuals working together to improve the quality of life for our fellow citizens.

I reiterate: I am honored by this prestigious award and promise you that I will attempt to continue that great observation from Gone with the Wind: “What better way can an old man die than doing a young man’s work.”

An Overview of the Development of America's Environmental Foundation

by Nathaniel Reed before Trinity College on June 12, 2010

The Environmental Era Begins

Public indignation over years of the discharges of untreated sewage and industrial chemicals threatens rivers, lakes and oceans come to a head. There are a minimum of 68 major initiatives that the Congress examined and resolved in the next 20 years. I cannot take time to examine the 68 major initiatives that were confronted and most passed into law to be managed by either the states or federal governmental agencies.

The short list of the most important issues is 37 - an overwhelming number to discuss today. I cut the number to 20 and last night cut it down to ten - probably too small a number to explain the genuine concerns expressed by the American people over the issues that impacted their health, the quality of their lives and the well being of our national lands.

I am prepared to discuss all 68 major initiatives that led to the creation of the American Environmental Foundation, but I have selected four to give you the breathe of the concerns that were addressed during this 20 years period and a chance to grasp the importance of these efforts.

Water Pollution

In 1960 the nation's first Clean Water Act passed. Progress was depressing by slowly leading to the 1963 Clean Air and Water Act an effort championed by Senator Muskie.

Due to continued water pollution, public health issues became a major national issue.

In 1965 Congress was dissatisfied by lack of progress and passed yet another Water Quality Act with a major grant program destined to cut down on raw sewage discharges nationwide.

In 1969 the Cuyahoga River bursts into flames - five stories high - from chemical and oil pollution.

In 1972 Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Act over President Nixon's veto. His concerns were federal costs and federal authority over admittedly fathering state programs.

In 1980 President Carter announces relocation of 700 families from the Love Canal area which leads to the passage of the Superfund. The program was torpedoed by President Regan and his successors. Only 84 of 1,245 sites have been cleaned up.

With the notable exception of the Superfund, our nation's waterways, lakes and estuaries are much cleaner than they were in 1960. It is time for another giant step forward which will require both state and federal funding. This is a major problem, as both state and the federal budgets are in serious imbalance.

Major Federal Programs

In 1969 the sweeping program named the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the creation of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) forced all federal agencies to review their proposed plans and expose the environmental consequences of the selected action. Failure to adequately publicly admit to adverse environmental consequences led to decades of litigation, and many of the legal actions led to cancellation of proposed actions. In my case the primary targets were the Corps of Army Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Forest Service, DOT and even the military.

Provisions within the Clean Water Act and NEPA as the National Environmental Policy Act were known, became tools for those of us who wanted to stop the annals of 'Pork Barrel' congressionally authorized projects that sat on the books awaiting a congressional appropriation. I had nothing to lose so our team took on projects across the country with vigor and enthusiasm endearing us to the budget masters at the Office of Management and Budget, but gaining the enmity of the congressional sponsors who decided we were ‘undermining’ an ancient system of ‘get along and then get your reward’.

Russell Train, who had began his career in the Nixon Administration as Undersecretary of the Department of Interior for Wally Hickel the embattled former Governor of Alaska, became the champion of the federal government's environmental movement. Russ carefully selected a highly qualified staff and began to make major decisions that crossed agencies boundaries.

Collectively we came together and discovered willing or knowingly that the Nixon Administration had attracted some of the brightest, most talented federal appointees ever assembled. Russ became the quarterback. He was not without critics who thought that ‘environmental progress’ was occurring with lightening speed and without congressional approval. Russ, the great gentleman, could stand up to the harshest critic and deflect their outrageous assertions with ease.

Working with Russ and his staff was a rare pleasure.

I urged my staff to challenge Corps, Bureau of Reclamation and even the Soil Conservation Agency plans to dredge, dig and dam wherever across the country.

We finished off the Merrimack Dam in Missouri over the screams of then Governor Kit Bond. I briefed then Governor Reagan on why the proposed Sacramento Dam designed to be built on a major fault line; if it failed it would wipe out the Capitol. He considered that report and retorted: “Not a bad idea as long as I am at my ranch!” We challenged successfully major projects coast to coast.

We failed to stop the final Corps plans to dam the Colombia and the Snake River forever imperiling the greatest native salmon and steelhead runs in the world.

I threw caution to the wind in opposing the construction of the earthen Teton Dam that made the glorious Teton River another reservoir. I thought I conclusively proved that the material to build the dam and its location would stop its construction. When it collapsed, thankfully without killing humans, I could not rejoice at the utter foolishness of the senior senator from Idaho insisting that the Teton Dam be built as ‘payment for his consistent support of the Vietnam War’.

The construction of the Tellico Dam that buried the last remaining free running stretch of the Little Tennessee River was a loss that I will never forget. It was the infamous snail darter, one of the first on the list of ‘endangered species’ that held the dam up until the little fish was discovered living in tributaries where the dam and huge reservoir would not endanger the little fish. It was a foolish project with no redeeming features.

The National Environmental Policy Act managed by a skilled administrator with the support from the White House can be one of the most progressive environmental initiatives of the 20th century. It can flounder depending on the level of presidential support and the qualities of the appointees.

The Creation of the Environmental Protection Agency

In 1970 the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency became law.

EPA brought together key federal programs including health, education and welfare - national air pollution, administration, and the inept Department of Interior's Water Quality Administration.
Headed by Bill Ruckelshaus, one of the most talented and ethical members of the Nixon appointees, he fought with assistance from me at Interior and Train at CEQ to defeat constant efforts by Big Ag, the Chamber of Commerce's and every major industry, including Big Oil to enforce both air and water laws. EPA was the answer to my personal prayers, as the failure to enforce the national clean water acts had dramatic adverse impacts on our nation's wildlife resources.

Its successes and failures depended on congressional appropriations and the appointment of a committed administrator and the regional directors.

It is worth mentioning the single greatest source of pollution today is no longer municipal sewage or industrial waste, but the non point discharges from our city streets after heavy rainfall events and the constant runoff of nutrients, pesticides, herbicides and a host of other agricultural chemicals. Our nation's waterways, its bays and estuaries are gravely impacted by failure of the federal and state governments to enforce new standards, enforceable standards, to prevent the continuing pollution of areas like the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, the Sacramento Delta, Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Everglades. This is one last great hurdle to climb to make the clean water a reality.

Like it sister agencies, the congressional budget and the qualities of the appointees make or break the great promise that this key agency can have in the vital ‘quality of life issues’ that confront the American people.


In 1973 eighty nations signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) the ‘Magna Carta' for wildlife’.

During the lengthy debates at the United State's State Department, I was notified that a shipment of endangered species killed by poachers in Central and South America had been discovered being shipped through Kennedy Airport. I spoke to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife enforcement team at the airport and decided to fly up immediately. I informed Russ Train who headed the U.S. delegation to the convention that I might have a ‘bombshell’ for him to announce the next day if indeed the shipment contained the thousands of pelts and skins of animals that were described to me by the service's agents.

I caught the shuttle and was driven to Kennedy by agents who were dumbfounded by the size of the cache.

Shipping documents indicated that the dreadful booty was to be transshipped to tanneries in Japan and Italy.

While I was examining the collection, Hugh Downs called and inquired whether I would allow a television team to put us on the early segment of the Early Morning Show. I answered: “Hugh, you may pass the CITES Convention by showing the size and scope of the illegal wildlife trade!”

A team from the show arrived and artfully decorated a room filled with pelts of jaguars, ocelots and other jungle cats, alligator pelts, snake skins and feathers of rare birds: a cornucopia of wildlife illegally killed.

Late in the evening, the crew announced that Barbara Walters had insisted on appearing and wanted a ‘script’ prepared as to what she could show as an ‘expert’. Hurriedly, the agents and I prepared a script. I slept in a nearby motel and was at the scene at 5AM. The 7AM segment was the most watched early morning television show on any network. At 6AM Barbara arrived in a limousine with a makeup artist and a hair dresser. At 6:50AM, all power was lost. Barbara had a ‘fit’. Hugh and I were really disappointed when the television manager stated that it might take hours to uncover the cause of the blackout. With that announcement Barbara retired to her limousine and was rushed back to the studio. Miraculously, power was restored the moment her limousine pulled away and at 7:12AM, following the news, Hugh and I explained to the audience of millions that this was vitally important evidence for the need to pass the Convention. We wandered casually among the pelts, holding up jaguar skins, one of the most beautiful of all the world's great cats and handling river otter pelts destined to become women's winter coats.

We kept getting signals from the on-site director to ‘keep going’ and ended the segment as planned at 7:30AM.

Hugh and I were enjoying a much needed cup of coffee when the director rushed in and stated: “The phones at headquarters are ringing off the hooks. Hundreds of callers want more information. You two are on again in 8 minutes.” We went until 8AM reexamining the pelts and the skins. At 8AM while enjoying yet another cup of coffee, the director rushed up and said: “The phones are still ringing. You have to go for another 15 minutes.”

I flew back to Washington, glowing over the early morning's work. Early the next morning Alita and I had the Kenya delegation for breakfast to explore whether they really wanted to end all big game hunting in their country. I will never forget the sight of our three children sitting at the top of the staircase in pajamas and wrappers watching these wonderful men sitting at our dining room table debating the loss of wildlife revenue from big game hunting licenses versus changing their country over to big game viewing.

Russ made many allies and CITES is still the Magna Carta' of international wildlife protection.

The Endangered Species Act

I was involved in writing the Act with a team recruited by Russ Train. I was the administration's main witness before multiple congressional committees. Within a year after its passage I was stuck defending the habitat of the Desert Pupfish and the San Francisco Salt Marsh Mouse.

I refused Corps permits to fill the marshes within San Francisco Bay for a huge development eagerly sought by the Chase Manhattan Bank. One irate member of the Bay's congressional delegation screamed: “How can you equate the value of a mouse, admittedly a rare mouse, to a development that will employ thousands of workers?” I answered I was not in the business of making decisions that would send a life form that had existed long before man to the oblivion of extinction. Judeo-Christian ethics taught to me at my Alma Mater and the requirement to obey the law gave me no slack: I refused to extinguish one of God's creations and denied the Corps permit.

My five years in Tallahassee and five in Washington have been the highlights of a wonderful life.

I continue to work mostly in Florida on issues that impact the effort to restore the vast everglades ecosystem. It is a never ending battle: a worthy one, one worth winning.

I remain involved in land use issues - refusing to stand back from now 30 plus years involved in the creation of one of the nation's best crafted Land Use Policy Acts now under continuing assault from years of uncaring governors and the constant pressuring from the development community to maim the act.

For me, personal highlights:

1. The protection of Bald and Golden Eagles and the arrest of Herman Werner, a Wyoming mega rancher who had over 900 eagles killed and buried on his ranches.
2. The Ban of 1080 by Executive Order. 1080 was the single most potent, persistent poison ever developed by man. It was used to kill coyotes all across the west. It killed every critter that ate from the baited carcass and kept on killing as secondary poison and even much further down the food chain.
3. Banning DDT before it created Silent Spring.
4. Passage of Endangered Species Act.
5. The Alaska Land Act that preserved over 100 million acres of the best of Alaska forever in national parks, wildlife refuges and additions to the national forests.

These were triumphs of magnitude that required the dedication of the best staff ever assembled at Interior, EPA and CEQ. We were a band of brothers.

I am still working and loving every minute of it!

I can't help remind myself of that wonderful quote from Gone with the Wind: “What better way can an old man die than doing a young man's work.”