Former Secretary of the Interior James Watt says he has no regrets about his controversial stint in the Reagan administration because he believes he started a moral revolution that will continue under George Bush.
"We were making a revolutionary change to restore the (public) lands. We had to really declare war to get away from the terrible policies of the late '70s," he said."I was one of the leading men on that, and I was finally executed myself. It is my contention that there are absolute values that must be honored, and if we do not honor these values, there will be a civil war that will rage on through time."
One of those absolute values, Watt contends, is that public lands must be available for Americans to use, whether they want it for cattle ranching or for backpacking.
Watt spoke recently to a group of Brigham Young University students during a public land management conference in the J. Reuben Clark Law School. He said that because many of the people who worked with him in the Interior Department are still there, public land policy under President Bush should be much like it was under Ronald Reagan.
Watt said environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club harbor leftist ideas and a desire to control government by controlling the land.
"What are the lands for? They're for people. Those who want the status quo want to lock in all lands and put them under control of the government. It's the haves vs. the have nots," Watt said. "If I want to be a backpacker, I don't want that cattle rancher to put his cattle in there. It fouls up the trails. It's a matter of position."
Watt, who was interior secretary during most of Reagan's first term, said he spent much of his time reversing the damage done to public land policy by the Carter administration.
"The government offended every conceivable principle of property rights that you could imagine in the late '70s," he said. "We put people in the environmental equation. We put people in the public parks. We improved the environment and improved access to public lands. That land is to be used to make America a greater nation. We're not to use that land to discourage freedom."
Public land should be used to develop America's energy resources, Watt said. The U.S. is blessed with abundant energy and we have to use it to promote freedom.