Recipient Biography

Henry L. Diamond


Henry L. Diamond received the Pugsley Medal for his more than five decades of leadership in the parks and conservation movement. He has provided guidance and promoted stewardship of the land and natural resources through private initiative and enlightened local, state and federal legislation and policy. This work has been facilitated through his long and close relationship as an advisor and senior associate of Laurance S. Rockefeller which started in the early 1960s and lasted until Rockefeller's death in 2004; through his service as a public official; through his involvement with ad hoc commissions, committees, special purpose organizations, and board memberships; and through his role as a founding and principal partner of the law firm of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. which has 100 lawyers and offices in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Baltimore, Boston, Austin and New Jersey, and is the largest environmental law firm in the country.

Diamond was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1932. He graduated from Vanderbilt University where he was elected the outstanding undergraduate of 1954. After graduation he served in the U.S. Army, primarily in Germany. He received a Freedoms Foundation award following his military service. In 1959, he graduated from the Georgetown Law Center where he was a member of the Law Journal staff.

When he graduated from law school, Diamond's aspiration was to work for the next President of the United States. He had a well-connected friend who knew the Kennedy family well and he informed Diamond that the Kennedys were hiring staff in preparation for John F. Kennedy's Presidential campaign. Diamond was interviewed by Bobby Kennedy, but he concluded they were too young for John Kennedy to be elected. Diamond believed that the dynamic new governor of New York State, Nelson Rockefeller, was most likely to win the Presidency. His friend indicated that Nelson's brother, Laurance, was coming to Washington to chair the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) and arranged for Diamond to meet with him.

This fortuitous meeting was the beginning of a 40 year association for Diamond with Laurance Rockefeller (Pugsley Medal 2004). From that time forward Diamond was a senior associate and advisor for Rockefeller's conservation and environmental activities. Rockefeller hired Diamond to edit the 27-volume ORRRC report. The bi-partisan ORRRC was created by Congress and comprised of eight members of Congress and seven presidential appointees. After three years of study, ORRRC made a series of recommendations leading to such landmark legislation as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Wilderness Act, the National System of Fivers and Trails, and a new Bureau of Outdoor Recreation within the Department of the Interior.
In 1962, Diamond served as an assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, but from 1963-69 he worked directly for Laurance Rockefeller. Through this association with Rockefeller, Diamond deepened his involvement with the large conservation issues of the day. In 1965, he was a delegate to the White House Conference on Natural Beauty, signaling the expansion of the geographic and political scope of his conservation efforts. As part of his relationship with Rockefeller, Diamond served on several influential policy groups, among them: the Long Island State Park Commission; the Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks; and the Commission on the Future of the Hudson River Valley.

For a few months at the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970, Diamond served as external public affairs counselor to the National Recreation and Park Association. This relationship was terminated soon after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was created on the first Earth Day in 1970. It combined all state resource management and anti-pollution programs into the nation's first environmental department. Diamond was appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as the agency's first commissioner. From his first day on the job, he set the participation tone at DEC by walking the streets of New York City helping to pick up litter.

As the agency's first commissioner, Diamond had to bring together the conservation, fish and wildlife-oriented programs of the old Conservation Department, and institute new ones in response to America's new recognition that the environment needed leadership in developing new ways to fight air and water pollution. As the state's hunting and fishing programs were brought under the DEC umbrella, the DEC also created programs to deal with mercury pollution, solid waste, water and air pollution, as well as access to public lands and forests. The combination was the first of its kind in the nation, and became a model for many other states.

Realizing that the state needed more financial resources to deal with new programs and problems, Diamond proposed a $ 1.15 billion bond issue. To publicize the need for it, he undertook a 350-mile bike ride across New York State. The bond act passed by a margin of 2-1 and provided funds for land acquisition, solid waste aid, sewage treatment, air pollution control and resource recovery.

From 1974-75, he was the executive director of the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans. That Commission, chaired by Nelson A. Rockefeller, was comprised of 43 prominent Americans, including leaders in Congress. Its purpose was to identify the critical alternative policy choices available to the American people.

President Nixon appointed Diamond to the President's Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality and as chairman of that group in 1973, and to the U.S. delegation to the Stockholm United Nations Environmental Conference in 1972. Diamond moved to the private sector in 1975, joining the nascent environmental law firm that became Ruckelshaus, Beveridge, Fairbanks & Diamond. While in the private practice of law, he continued his commitment to conservation and wise land use by public and private participation. Diamond was a founding director of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC). Since its beginning in 1986, RTC has achieved notable success in promoting and protecting favorable legislation and providing assistance and leadership to the trails and greenways community. In 1990 RTC defended, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the constitutionality of the railbanking provision of the National Trails System Act in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice. Diamond enlisted his law firm colleagues to represent RTC on a pro bono basis.

He was co-chairman of President Reagan's Transition Task Force on the Environment in 1979. In 1991, he was chairman of the 75[h Anniversary Symposium of the National Park Service in Vail, Colorado, which later became known as the Vail Agenda. The conference re-examined all aspects of the NPS from structure to policy, and suggested a blue print for the agency's future. The Vail Agenda was a milestone document that reaffirmed the fundamental elements of the National Park Service's contemporary role and asserted a vision for the Service for the 21SI Century. That vision is summarized in the six strategic objectives put forth by the Steering Committee: (1) Resource Stewardship and Protection; (2) Access and Enjoyment; (3) Education and Interpretation; (4) Proactive Leadership; (5) Science and Research; and (6) Professionalism.

In 1996, Henry Diamond co-authored, with Patrick Noonan, Land Use in America, The Report of the Sustainable Use of Land Projects. The book consists of a 10-point call to action for all communities, and stressed the need for more focus on land use:

This report concludes that better land use is essential to the health and well-being of America's communities. Clean air, clean water, and livable communities cannot be achieved without good land use: Yet land use has been the neglected part of environmental efforts, because it evokes deep emotional responses and because it is so complex governmentally. Therefore, a land use agenda for America's communities is important.

During his lengthy conservation career, Diamond has served on the boards of numerous environmental organizations including the American Conservation Association; Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation, the citizen support group for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; Environmental Law Institute; Jackson Hole Preserve, Inc.; National Environmental Education and Training Foundation; National Wildlife Federation; National Wildlife Research Center; Natural Resources Council of America; New York Parks and Conservation Association; Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Resources for the Future; Scenic America; Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, The Conservation Fund; Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Council and The Woodstock Foundation.

Diamond continues to advise clients on environmental and land use matters at Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., the country's pre-eminent environmental and land use law firm. Currently, Diamond is one of the leaders in creating The Outdoor Resources Review Group (ORRG), an initiative to assure that parks, outdoor recreation, open space and related issues are high on the American agenda as the new Administration takes office. A small, bipartisan group, chaired by Senators Jeff Bingaman and Lamar Alexander, will undertake a review of conservation, outdoor recreation and related issues in light of changes in the needs of the American public and the resources available to meet those needs since the last such review more than 20 years ago. It will also project anticipated changes and needs over the next 20 years. It is fitting that Diamond presently is involved with the ORRG, as its review will be in the tradition of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission of 1962 and the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors of 1987.

The scope of the project, which will inform the final report to the Administration, touches upon many of the issues on which Diamond has focused in his five decades of public life on behalf of parks and conservation. The report will evaluate demand for outdoor recreation, by tracking participation and visits to parks and natural areas, and will consider the value of these resources. Lastly, the report will evaluate the supply of outdoor recreation space and evaluate trends and needs in funding.

Diamond also serves as Chair of Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation (AHR), a diverse organization representing conservationists, the recreation and sporting goods industries, park and recreation specialists, wildlife enthusiasts, advocates for urban and wilderness areas, preservationists of cultural and historic sites, land trust advocates, the youth sports community, and civic groups, seeking to revitalize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program.

From his early involvement in the 1960s with conservation issues, his leadership in the 1970s in forming the first-ever state environmental agency, to his expanded national role in the 1980s and beyond, Henry Diamond has been a consistent voice for parks and conservation and an advocate for finding a role that all segments of the body politic can and must play in preserving and protecting the common natural heritage. With every successive membership, whether manning a laboring oar or holding the Chair's gavel for 30 different commissions, boards and councils, he has exemplified extraordinary dedication to public service, public lands and parks and conservation.