A Time Magazine story dated the first week of February 1969 illustrates how RN set the tone for his administration’s environmental agenda very early on:
After his embroilment in the Nixon Administration’s only serious appointment hassle, Walter Hickel was doubly confirmed: both in his new job as Secretary of the Interior and in his new respect for the power of disgruntled conservationists. Last week, in his first important action, Hickel named as his undersecretary a man who may well set the tone for his department. He is Russell E. Train, chairman of Nixon’s pre-inaugural task force on resources and environment, and an internationally esteemed conservationist. The appointment drew praise from nearly every quarter, including the old Administration. Said Stewart Udall, Hickel’s predecessor: “I don’t think there’s anyone in the conservation movement with greater dedication or insight. He’s supported all the right causes.”
For Udall, the most important right cause is Train’s commitment to “the environmental impact of what we’re doing.” Train believes that the Federal Government must assign top priority to preserving open space and protecting wildlife—two of Interior’s traditional functions. He insists that the Government also study the wise use of all of the nation’s vulnerable natural resources, and specifically a campaign against such blights as pollution, overcrowding and planned uglification. Train, 48, an Eisenhower appointee to a tax court judgeship, first became interested in conservation as a big-game hunter. In 1961, he founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation to help assure that Africa’s new governments would do a better job of preserving game than their colonial predecessors had. For the past four years he has headed the nonprofit Conservation Foundation, which, under his leadership, addressed its educational and research programs to increasingly broader fields (waste disposal, the danger of pesticides, hunger).
Train’s impending appointment became open knowledge in Washington early last month after Nixon aides leaked the news in hope of offsetting Hickel’s extremely maladroit comments on utilizing natural resources rather than preserving them. In discussing Train’s Senate hearing for confirmation this week, Hickel said wryly: “I don’t think the hearings will last as long for him as they did for me.”