Walter J. Hickel

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Walter J. Hickel (died in 2010), "who as governor of Alaska, United States secretary of the interior and then governor again of the nation’s last frontier state confounded critics by ricocheting from pro-business stalwart to ardent environmentalist and back again, died Friday in Anchorage. He was 90.

"A self-made millionaire, Mr. Hickel was governor of the 49th state from 1966 to 1968; interior secretary in the Nixon administration in 1969 and 1970; and then — after running as the nominee of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party — governor again from 1990 to 1994. He later reregistered as a Republican and disavowed the idea that Alaska should secede.

"It was an ardor for Alaska’s vast wilderness — its craggy peaks, blue coastal ice sheets and rolling tundra, and its caribou herds, musk oxen, wolf packs, moose and millions of migratory birds — and a longing to tap into the oil and gas riches below the surface that propelled Mr. Hickel’s contradictory and sometimes quixotic quests...

"Mr. Hickel said he was opposed to “conservation for conservation’s sake” weeks before his confirmation hearings for interior secretary in 1969, drawing condemnation by the environmental community.

"Yet by the time he addressed the National Petroleum Council in Washington in July 1970, his tune had changed.

"“Let’s find new ways, better ways of doing business so that our industries can prosper and our environment flourish at the same time,” Secretary Hickel said. “The right to produce is not the right to pollute. America must prove to itself as well as to others worldwide that it has the ability to clean up the garbage it has left in its wake.”

"He backed up his words with deeds, gathering a bewildered constituency among the conservationists who had opposed him..." [1]


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