Our History

In a fitting tribute to one of the greatest legislators of his generation, Congress acted unanimously in 1992 to establish the Udall Foundation. The bill creating the Foundation was the result of a bipartisan effort led by Morris Udall's colleagues from Arizona, Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini and Republican Senator John McCain. It was signed into law on March 19, 1992, by President George H.W. Bush.

The legislation was introduced shortly after Morris Udall's retirement in 1991 due to illness. The initial purposes of the Foundation were to award scholarships, fellowships, and internships for studies related to the environment or Native American policy and health care; to provide funding for certain activities of the Udall Center at the University of Arizona, including a program for environmental conflict resolution; and to fund a repository for the papers of Morris Udall and other appropriate public figures.

Senator DeConcini said at the time that the Foundation's creation would both honor Morris Udall and make a significant contribution to addressing and resolving the environmental problems that lay ahead. "Training young people to solve today's environmental problems and prevent future ones" would be an appropriate tribute to Congressman Udall, who focused his legislative agenda on resolving the problems facing our environment and natural resources, Senator DeConcini said.

The bipartisan support for the Foundation's creation was particularly appropriate, given Morris Udall's noted ability to build consensus across party and ideological lines. At the time of his retirement in 1991, 75 House members from both parties spoke at a special session in his honor, expressing their respect for his integrity, humor, and dedication to public service. They noted that, while he was most known for his work on environmental issues, Udall also was a leader in many of the other major policy debates of the era. Congressman George Miller of California said:

For nearly 30 years, Mo Udall was in the middle of virtually every major legislative battle that faced the Congress and the Nation. War and peace, civil unrest, civil rights, ethics, campaign reform, health care, gun control, immigration, nuclear energy, and of course, the environment. His effectiveness, his integrity, and his leadership won him the admiration of Members on both sides of the aisle, and throughout America.

Udall Scholars, Interns and Fellows are selected today not only for their academic records but also for their demonstrated interest in public policy. Each year, the Foundation awards 80 undergraduate scholarships, 12 Congressional internships to outstanding Native American students, and two fellowships to doctoral candidates whose dissertations focus on environmental policy or environmental conflict resolution. It also sponsors Parks In Focus, which takes middle-school students from urban areas to national and state parks and combines lessons in photography with environmental education.

In 1998, Congress unanimously amended the Foundation's enabling legislation to create the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution as part of the Foundation. The U.S. Institute provides mediation and related services to help resolve environmental, natural resource and public lands conflicts that involve the federal government. Senator McCain introduced the bill creating the U.S. Institute, noting that it was fitting for it to be part of the Udall Foundation, given that Morris Udall's career "was distinguished by his integrity, service and commitment to consensus-building."

The Udall Foundation is an agency within the executive branch of the United States government. The President appoints nine members of its board of trustees, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate; the other four members serve by virtue of their positions within government.

The Foundation's activities are supported by two distinct funds in the U.S. Treasury. Educational activities are supported primarily by interest generated by a trust fund established by Congress; the Foundation may also accept private donations for educational activities. The activities of the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution are supported by annual appropriations and fees charged for services.