U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt To Speak On Wildland Fire Policy In Gainesville

Erica Pittman

Wayne Smith (352) 846-0850

GAINESVILLE—U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt will discuss wildland fire policy on April 20 at the University of Florida’s annual John Gray Distinguished Lecture Series.

The lecture at 9:30 a.m. in the Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel (formerly the Radisson) also keynotes the annual Spring Symposium “Fire: Friend and Foe,” which is jointly sponsored by the Florida Society of American Foresters and the UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“The issue of fire is highlighted by the fact that the 1998 fires burned more than 500,000 acres and 300 homes in Florida, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage,” said Wayne Smith, director of the school, which is part of the UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Bringing these fires under control cost hundreds of millions more.”

Smith said Babbitt has a rich history in developing wildland fire policy and still reserves time for joining fire crews.

Babbitt was appointed secretary of the interior by President Clinton in 1993. Since then, he has initiated a new direction in American conservation history — the development of large-scale, consensus-based environmental restoration projects.

In Florida, the interior department initiated an interagency plan, with the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers and the state of Florida, to restore the ecosystem of South Florida, the Everglades and Florida Bay. Under Babbitt’s leadership, the department also has demonstrated how the Endangered Species Act can be applied to protect open space and multiple species through an innovative, consensus-building approach: Habitat Conservation Plans.

He served as governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987 and attorney general of Arizona from 1975 to 1978. Babbitt graduated from Notre Dame University with a B.A. in geology, took an M.S. in geophysics from the University of Newcastle, England, and earned an L.L.B. from Harvard Law School.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Press Room will open in Salon G immediately after Secretary Babbitt’s presentation.