How we banned Compound 1080

  Dear HCN,

In a back-page essay, you show a photograph of Sen. Gale McGee, William Ruckelshaus, and me: Nathaniel Reed (HCN, 3/27/00: HCN at 30: 'On faith alone'). I was serving as Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The story of how the poisoned eagles were located, the intense investigation that followed, the incredible breakthroughs: the pilot of the helicopter and light wing aircraft appearing at my office and confessing, and the use of the then-top secret Blackhawk reconnaissance aircraft to locate burial pits on the Werner Ranch that contained hundreds of eagles are all part of a fascinating story.

Tom Bell did energize me when the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming refused to bring charges against Herman Werner, but thanks to the invaluable assistance of Attorney General Elliott Richardson, we charged Mr. Werner.

Just before trial he met an unseemly death driving his car off a cliff.

The eagles that you see us holding were a last-minute inspiration. Just as I was leaving to testify on the Hill, I called Dillon Ripley, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, and asked him for stuffed bald and golden eagles. The samples were at the front door as we dashed by on the way to the Senate hearing. The photographs of the birds made every newspaper in America and led to vastly increased fines for killers of eagles. Walter Cronkite captured the scene by following the Werner case and another eagle-killing case in Texas.

I came to Washington with a short agenda of 12 items. On top of the list was the need to ban the use of Compound 1080 once and for all. I put a peer review committee together, headed by former Assistant Secretary Stanley Cain and A. Starker Leopold. My assistant, James Ruch, staffed the team. They brought in the report that Jim prepared, with the leadership of EPA and CEQ, that led to the Presidential Order banning Compound 1080. It is one of the great environmental achievements of the Nixon administration.

Nathaniel P. Reed
Hobe Sound, Florida