x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A natural legacy

Under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the late Stewart Udall oversaw the acquisition of 3.85 million acres of new park land, including four national parks, eight national seashores and 50 wildlife refuges.

You have no reason to have heard of Stewart Udall. Trust us: the UAE could use men and women like him. After Udall's death this weekend, the US president Barack Obama was correct to note that the 90-year-old former US government official had left an "indelible mark" on his nation. The reason? While working under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Udall oversaw the acquisition of 3.85 million acres of new park land, including four national parks, eight national seashores and 50 wildlife refuges. He also had an interest in preserving historical sites, and saved New York's Carnegie Hall, one of the world's great concert venues, from destruction.

Udall accomplished this by persuading lawmakers, entrepreneurs and others that land could be valuable even if it was not developed. History bears out the truth of his belief that public lands such as parks and historical sites would enhance the economic value of privately held land nearby. Udall's goal was simple - to educate his fellow citizens about the value of natural beauty and to protect his nation's natural treasures and historical sites so that future generations could enjoy them. As the UAE rushes headlong into the future, what land, what seashore and what buildings should it preserve? The UAE is waiting for its home-grown versions of Stewart Udall to answer the question.