Capitol Reef
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Udall Vs. Johnson And The Monuments In Between: December 1968 - January 1969

The final list of seven national monument expansions and establishments was presented to President Johnson by Stewart Udall on December 11, 1968. In a memorandum to the president dated December 5, Udall listed the national monument and wildlife refuge possibilities. In order, they were a 2 million-acre addition to the southern half of Mt. McKinley National Monument in Alaska; establishment of a 3.6 million-acre Arctic Circle National Monument, Alaska; a new 26,000-acre Marble Canyon National Monument, Arizona; a new, 911,000-acre Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona; a 94,000- acre addition to Alaska's Katmai National Monument; a 49,000-acre addition to Arches in Utah; and the 215,000-acre proposed addition to Capitol Reef National Monument in Utah. Also included were two additions to Alaska wildlife refuges totaling an additional one million acres.

It is unknown whether the list was created in order of preference or potential controversy but, in any case, Capitol Reef was far less important in the ensuing debate than the huge proposals for Alaska, or than a Sonoran Desert Monument that would encompass a military firing range in southern Arizona. [45]

During the closing months of Johnson's administration, the president increasingly surrounded himself with a circle of advisors. One of his closest advisors, Special Consul W. DeVier Pierson, would become the key liaison between Udall and the president in the weeks to follow. In his analysis, which accompanied Udall's December 5 memorandum, Pierson initially supported Udall's proposal, telling Johnson, "It would be the last opportunity to cap off your exceptional record of additions in the park system." [46]

On December 11, Udall presented his case, complete with slides, maps, and graphs, to the president and the first lady. The presentation was followed by cabinet members and aides grilling Udall on the proposed areas and on the general consequences of the president issuing such controversial proclamations during his last days in office. After the meeting, Udall believed he had persuaded Johnson to sign, once a few minor legal questions were settled. The secretary was convinced the whole package would be signed by the mid- December, as Johnson's "parting Christmas gift to the American people." [47]

Unbeknownst to Udall, Pierson was now questioning the political implications of adding such a tremendous amount of acreage to the national park system without congressional approval. On December 12, Pierson wrote the president to point out that, while the Utah and Arizona monuments engendered little controversy, the Alaska proposals were particularly senstive. Questions of oil reserves accessibility and native land claims could be expected, as well as opposition from Gov. Hickel, Nixon's recently-announced nominee for Nixon's Secretary of Interior. Pierson also pointed out the potential opposition from congressional leaders, such as House Interior Committee Chairman Wayne Aspinall of Colorado, who opposed any presidential use of the Antiquities Act to create or expand monuments. [48]

This need to clear the proposals with congressional leaders would prove to be the major bone of contention between Udall and Johnson. Udall had already talked with park supporters such as Democratic Sen. Henry Jackson, who was chairman of the Senate Interior Committee, and Republican Rep. John Saylor, minority leader on the House Interior Committee. As to the opposition, Udall believed that discussing the matter with Aspinall would be a waste of his time, as the representative would oppose the idea in any format. [49]

The secretary later recalled:

[Johnson] was much too concerned about congressional reaction, because I couldn't clear this all the way through Congress. After all, after January 20, his relations with Congress are not important. He didn't have any legislation to get through. The question was had he done what he thought was right for history and right for the country in terms of a final conservation achievement. [50]

Clearly, Udall thought of this entire issue as the deciding legacy he and Johnson would leave to conservation history. Johnson and Pierson, on the other hand, were more concerned with a possible legacy of controversy during the president's last days in office.

The deadline for approving the wildlife refuges in Alaska was 30 days before Nixon was sworn into office on January 20. While Udall could have authorized the wildlife refuges himself, he really wanted his entire package signed by Johnson in those last days before Christmas. Johnson, however, postponed signing any proclamations because he was dissatisfied with Udall's minimal congressional checks in mid-December. Further delay occurred when Johnson became ill and was hospitalized for several days, and then spent Christmas recuperating at his home in Texas. When Udall pressed about the monument approval, Pierson replied that Johnson would not decide until he personally contacted congressional leaders in January. [51]

Throughout early January, Udall continued to push for approval and Johnson kept delaying final action. On January 14, Udall delivered a breakdown of the extensive use of the Antiquities Act by previous presidents during their last weeks in office. This was attached to a memorandum to Johnson stating that everything would soon be in order and that the president could proceed with the signing the next day. An accompanying memorandum from Pierson advised continued caution:

I still have reservations as to the desirability of taking this action during the last week of your Administration. However, some of the proposed areas are very exciting. Consequently, you may wish to examine them on a case-by-case basis and act on some while deleting others. [52]

Pierson included an annotated list of the proposed national monument additions for the president's review. Capitol Reef National Monument was lumped with Arches and Marble Canyon national monuments and was "justified on the basis of unique geological or scientific qualities." Pierson had no problem with these acquisitions, provided the congressional delegations went along. The small Katmai addition posed little problem, but the proposed Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Gates of the Arctic and Mt. McKinley additions were generally seen as too large and too controversial.

Johnson wrote "OK" next to Capitol Reef, Arches, and Marble Canyon; "maybe" next to Katmai and Mount McKinley; and nothing next to the other two. The president also noted that he wanted further congressional checks "at once in depth." Thus, it seemed that Johnson was moving toward a compromise to include only the smaller additions--once congressional leaders were consulted. Capitol Reef's 215,000-acre addition would increase the monument's size by six times, yet this paled in comparison to the almost 6.5 million- acre proposals in Alaska and southern Arizona. [53]

It is unlikely that Udall was aware of this new course toward down-sizing his original proposal. On Friday, January 17, only three days before the inauguration, Udall reported to Johnson that he had discussed the idea with the Utah delegation, which had "a surprisingly good reaction." He wrote, "Even Sen. Bennett, who fought the Canyonlands National Park, favors our proposal." [54]

Udall also recounted a conversation with Aspinall, reporting that the Democrat opposed any plan that did not include congressional endorsement, but would respect Johnson's prerogatives. Udall told Johnson:

Mr. President, this is a better reaction than I had expected. I predict to you that the overwhelming praise you will receive from the conservation-minded people of this country will drown out the few complaints. [55]

Johnson, however, was not so sure. He decided to contact Aspinall personally. When the congressman told the president that Udall had never consulted him on this project, Johnson must have been more than a little surprised. Aspinall also warned that he would adamantly oppose any action not approved by Congress. According to Aspinall, Johnson called back a couple of days later, proposing a reduction to 345,000 acres from the original, 7 million-acre Udall proposal. Aspinall later recalled replying,

Mr. President, you're my president. I'm not going to raise hell, but I still stand on the principle that it isn't your responsibility and it isn't your authority to do this. This is Congressional authority....I won't object but you'll never get any money to administer it as such until Congress has a chance to look at it. [56]

At the same time this conversation tarnished Udall's credibility, the interior secretary found himself trying to keep the lid on press releases detailing the president's signing of all 7 million acres. These releases were apparently written specifically to answer questions raised by the president's State of the Union address on the previous Tuesday, when Johnson had ad-libbed that he was not yet finished with his conservation effort. This veiled reference forced Udall to field inquiries from the press and concerns from congressmen over exactly what Johnson intended. [57]

Udall and his director of information, Charles Boatner, tried to stall the press for as long as possible. Finally, Udall, believing that all seven proclamations would be signed on the Friday or Saturday before the inauguration, instructed Boatner to release the information on all seven for Monday's news. By Saturday morning, Jan. 18, the New York Times, for one, was aware of the possible proclamations and the information was out over the news wires. [58]

Udall was going to warn Johnson of these press releases at their scheduled Saturday meeting to discuss the monument proposals, but the meeting was postponed. When Johnson saw the releases coming over the news ticker on Saturday afternoon, he called Udall. The secretary recalled, "The president was very unhappy and bawled me out good that he hadn't made a decision and we turned it loose." This was the last official conversation Udall and Johnson ever had. [59]

On that same afternoon, Pierson was also pressuring Udall to help him on a completely separate issue dealing with Venezuelan oil rights. When Pierson implied that the proclamations would have a better chance if the secretary cooperated on the oil issue, Udall was infuriated. He had just been reprimanded by the president, and now his special council was telling him to play politics with the monument proposals that had become his personal crusade.

"I've made my last arguments on the parks," Udall told Pierson. "You can do what you damned please...I'm through...I've made my case and if you don't want to do anything on the parks, that's fine." [60]

Udall believed, at that point, he had quit only two days before Nixon's inauguration. He retracted the news releases and went hiking along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal all day Sunday, his last hours in office. Nevertheless, he had National Park Service Director Hartzog wait in Udall's office throughout the day just in case Johnson changed his mind and decided to sign the proclamations. [61]

Meanwhile, back in Utah, Superintendent Heyder was completely in dark about what was happening in Washington. After submitting his maps in early October, he had fielded a few clarification questions, yet he had no idea what the final boundary decision was. He didn't even know that the Capitol Reef National Monument expansion was part of a seven million-acre proposal. If any correspondence or memos were circulating, they were doing so well over the head of the superintendent of Capitol Reef National Monument. [62]

Then, just a few days before the end of Johnson's term, Heyder received an "eyes only" package from Washington that contained the press releases and maps for each of the seven proposed monuments. According to Heyder, there were two different maps of an expanded Capitol Reef National Monument, one with the eventual proclamation boundaries and one which also included the Circle Cliffs and Escalante canyons. There were also two different press releases for the monument's expansion, apparently depending on which one Johnson chose to sign. Heyder did not know which alternative would be included in the official proclamation. [63]

Then, on Friday, January 17, Heyder's wife was driving to Richfield when she heard over the radio that the monument was going to be enlarged. She called the superintendent, who in turn phoned Regional Director Kowski in Santa Fe. Kowski was just as surprised as Heyder. The regional director called back later that afternoon and told Heyder that nothing had been signed. According to Kowski, the news leak had apparently come from the Utah delegation, which had been briefed on the Arches and Capitol Reef proposals the day before. There was still no word about which Capitol Reef National Monument expansion boundary plan had been chosen or what was actually happening in Washington. According to Heyder, at that stage, "nobody knew anything." [64]

On Monday morning, January 20, Lyndon Johnson's last day in office, the president called his special consul into his bedroom as he dressed for the inaugural ceremonies. Pierson later recalled that the two of them spent an hour discussing the various proposals,

going over these cases one last time while he was deciding whether or not he would sign any or all of them. [Johnson] finally decided that he would sign the smaller ones and not sign the larger ones. [65]

The president's decisions were made public that morning in a White House news release. The "smaller" monument proclamations that Johnson approved and signed established Marble Canyon National Monument (which was later added to Grand Canyon National Park), and enlarged Katmai in Alaska and Arches and Capitol Reef in Utah. Of the approximately 300,000 acres added to the national park system, the largest portion was attached to Capitol Reef. [66] Even though the seven million acres originally proposed by Udall had been slashed significantly because of size and controversy, the 215,000-acre addition to Capitol Reef would prove extremely significant.

As for Stewart Udall, he believed Johnson had capitulated to unwarranted concerns over the response from Congress. Years later he complained:

Any President who defers to Congress in something like this was doing what I had said all along. He ought to decide what was good for the country; because I had the Congressional backstopping done. Jackson and Sayler (sic) between them, if anybody had tried--you know the Congress could undo these. In fact, I had briefed the whole Utah delegation. I had practically at one point sold them on the fact that the two in Utah--that this was a good thing. [67]

Udall was, of course, disappointed in Johnson's eventual decision to approve only the smaller monument additions. The last two months of turmoil certainly did not help to ease Udall's disillusionment. Had Johnson signed all the proclamations, National Park Service lands would have been increased by 25 percent. Udall's record as Secretary of the Interior was already very impressive: It would have been remarkable with this last legacy. As it turned out, however, most of Udall's proposals regarding Alaska were eventually included in the 100 million acres protected by the Alaska Lands Act during Jimmy Carter's last days as president in 1980. [68]

Lyndon Johnson's conservation record would have remained impressive even had he refused to sign any of the proclamations. His refusal to sign the larger area proclamations, however, illustrated his political priorities as opposed to the aesthetic values of Stewart Udall. According to historian John Crevelli, Johnson eventually agreed to the 300,000 acres to salvage some of his political prestige and because

it would be another small step in protecting the natural environment he really loved and in giving the people one last gift in his goal of the Great Society. He needed to go out with love. His ego demanded it. [69]

President Johnson may have given a smaller gift of love than Udall would have liked, but to many native Utahns, the enlargement of Capitol Reef was an outrage. They considered it too big, too surprising, and too much an example of an arbitrary, uncaring federal government. Lyndon Johnson's fears that the proclamations would be controversial were about to be realized. The negative reaction from neighbors and politicians ensnared Capitol Reef in a swarm of controversy that has never been completely resolved.

Yet, if Johnson had not enlarged Capitol Reef National Monument, would the Waterpocket Fold be a national park today? Conflict and controversy are inevitable when land use policy changes, especially when those changes occur so quickly and dramatically. It was now up to Congress, the National Park Service, and concerned residents to wade through the ensuing rhetoric and find legislative solutions to the seeming incompatibility between traditional use and preservation at Capitol Reef. Those final, difficult steps from monument expansion to park creation are described in the next chapter.


1 Congressional Record, 84th Congress, 2nd session, 1956, 102, Part 4:5415-17, is evidence that there was some support for the national parks from Utah's delegation.

2 See Chapter 7.

3 Congressional Record, 87th Congress, 1st Session, 11961, 107, Part 9:12258.

4 Ibid., 12259.

5 Carr to Anderson, 15 January 1962, Bill Folder S2234, Accession SEN 87A-E11, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Records of the United States Senate, Record Group 46, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

6 Congressional Record, 88th Congress, 1st Session, 1963, 109, Part 10:12124, 12062.

7 Canyonlands National Park was established September 12, 1964, but debate over enlargement went on until 1971. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which regulates Lake Powell, was authorized in 1958, but had no legislative mandate until 1972.

8 Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 3rd revised ed., 1982) 200-237, details the growth of the wilderness movement, the Echo Park Dam controversy, and the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

9 Public Law 88-577 in U.S. Statutes at Large, 78:890-896; Roderick Nash, 225-226; Alfred Runte, National Parks: The American Experience (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2nd revised ed., 1987) 240-241.

10 Runte, 241.

11 "Description of Wilderness Proposal for Capitol Reef National Monument, Utah," September 1967, Box 2, Folder 7, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

12 Ibid.; "Wilderness Proposal, Capitol Reef National Monument, Utah," September 1967, Map #CR-7400A, Box 2, Folder 7, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

13 Robert C. Heyder, interview with Brad Frye, 1 November 1993, tape recording.

14 Superintendent's Log of Significant Events, December 1967, Box 4, Folder 9, Capitol Reef National Park Archives (hereafter referred to as Superintendent's Log).

15 "Wilderness Proposal, Public Hearing," Transcript of Proceedings, Wilderness Report Material #12, 12 December 1967, Box 2, Folder 3-4, Capitol Reef National Park Archives, 60.

16 De Von Nelson Testimony, Ibid., 61-63.

17 Special Memorandum to Members and Cooperators of the Wilderness Society, 9 November 1967, Wilderness Report Material #12, Ibid.

18 Ibid., 3.

19 Colorado Open Space Council to Hearings Officer, 10 January 1968, Box 2, Folder 8, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

20 Of the 492 total responses to the 1967 Capitol Reef Wilderness Proposal, 392 or 80 percent were in favor of the Wilderness Society Proposal; Official Hearings Record, Section B, #4, Box 2, Folder 12, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

21 Heyder to Regional Director, 29 July 1968, Box 2, Folder 12, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

22 Regional Director to Director, 8 August 1968, Ibid.

23 Runte, 241-242.

24 Barry Mackintosh, The National Parks: Shaping the System (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1991) 81-83; John P. Crevelli, "The Final Act of the Greatest Conservation President," Prologue (Winter 1980): 173-191; Melody Webb, "Parks for People: Lyndon Johnson and the National Park System," no date, copy in author's possession.

25 Crevelli, 174-175.

26 Stewart Udall, interview with Joe B. Frantz, tape recording and transcript, 29 July 1969, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, Texas, 25.

27 Mackintosh, 63-64.

28 Stewart Udall, interview with Joe B. Frantz, October 31, 1969, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, 2.

29 Udall to Johnson, 26 July 1968, in staff files of Dorothy Territo, Office of President File, "Udall- National Monuments," Lyndon B. Johnson Library (hereafter referred to as Territo File), photocopy in Capitol Reef National Park Archives, administrative history notes.

30 Ibid.; Crevelli, "The Final Act of the Greatest Conservation President"; Webb, "Parks for the People."

31 Udall interview, 31 October 1969, 4.

32 William C. Everhart, The National Park Service (New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc., 1972) 175. See Runte 236-258 and Nash 272-315 for the complete account of Alaska land battles.

33 Acting Regional Director Jerome Miller to Director, 28 August 1968, Folder 32, Administrative Collection, Arches National Park Archives.

34 Acting Superintendent, Canyonlands National Park to Regional Director, 23 August 1968, Ibid.

35 Heyder, interview with Brad Frye, 1 November 1993, provides most of the information specific to Capitol Reef in this regard. The date of dedication was confirmed by an invitation found in Division of Resource Management Archives, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona.

36 Heyder interview.

37 Ibid.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid.

40 Unfortunately, there is no record of this map in the Arches, Capitol Reef, or National Park Service Technical Information Center Archives.

41 Heyder interview.

42 Heyder interview; Heyder, Administrative History draft review comments, 14 December 1994.

43 Heyder interview.

44 Ibid.

45 Udall to Johnson, 5 December 1968, Territo File; Crevelli, 176; Everhart, 175-176.

46 Pierson to Johnson, 6 December 1968, Territo File.

47 Udall interview, 31 October 1969, 3-7. All further references to Udall interview were taken from this October 1969 interview.

48 Pierson to Johnson, 12 December 1968, Territo File; Crevelli, 177-179.

49 Udall interview, 8; Crevelli, 180.

50 Udall interview, 8.

51 Pierson to Johnson, 18 December and 23 December 1968, Territo File; Crevelli, 179.

52 Pierson to Johnson, 14 January 1969, Territo File.

53 Ibid.

54 Udall to Johnson, 17 January 1969, Ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 Wayne Aspinall, interview with Joe B. Frantz, transcript, June 14, 1974, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, 28, photocopy in Capitol Reef National Park Archives, administrative history notes.

57 Udall interview, 9.

58 Crevelli, 187, Udall interview, 13.

59 Crevelli, 187.

60 Udall interview, 16.

61 Ibid.

62 Heyder interview.

63 Ibid. A press release dated December 1968 and a map showing the eventual proclamation boundaries are in Box 2, Folder 5, Capitol Reef National Park Archives. There is no known copy of the other press release concerning the proposed Circle Cliffs addition.

64 Ibid.; Superintendent's Report, January 1969. Beginning on January 19, Heyder began keeping a telephone conversation log, which he subsequently gave to Chief Ranger Bert Speed when Heyder was transferred to Bryce in May 1969. It is located in Box 2, Folder 5, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

65 W. DeVier Pierson, interview with Dorothy Pierce McSweeney, transcript, 19 March 1969, photocopy in Capitol Reef National Park Archives, administrative history notes, 20-21.

66 White House Press Release, 20 January 1969, FG-145-9, National Park Service Box 209, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

67 Udall interview, 18.

68 Runte, 246-255, details the fight for the Alaska Lands Bill.

69 Crevelli, 191.

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Last Updated: 10-Dec-2002