James “Randy” Udall, 61, son of former Arizona congressman Mo Udall and brother of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), has been missing since last Wednesday.
An experienced hiker, Udall was on a solo trek through the Wind River Mountain range in western Wyoming.
On June 28, two days after he was expected to return, his family called the Sublette County sheriff’s office, and a search of the 225-square-mile area began by air and foot.
The Udall family has deep roots in the American West, with many members holding seats in public office. Udall’s father and his uncle Stewart, who was interior secretary during the Kennedy administration, have been heralded as the pioneers of the conservation movement in the West.
“It was the Udall family that helped bring environmental issues into prominence and develop natural approaches and solutions,” said Howard Boigon, a natural gas lawyer from Denver who has worked with Randy Udall and his brother, the senator. “Their offspring have continued that tradition.”
In 1994, Randy Udall founded the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) to promote renewable energy in western Colorado. For a decade, his most prominent project was to commercialize coal mine methane.
To Auden Schendler, vice president of Aspen Skiing Company and a close friend, the plan was “classic Randy,” in that it confronted unsustainable practices with a realistic solution. Udall sought to simultaneously destroy a potent greenhouse gas and create energy from the process. It took multiple efforts but was ultimately adopted at Aspen Skiing as the country’s first project of its kind, converting waste methane into electricity.
“He looks for win-win solutions without necessarily giving industries a pass on anything,” Boigon said. “He has good credibility in different circles, and his brother’s like that, too.”
In the Udall family, an appreciation for the outdoors is almost surpassed by a propensity for politics. But Randy Udall has never held public office, and those close to him say it’s never been for him.
“He never played on the political history he had,” said Mona Newton, the executive director of CORE. “He’s a leader, but not because he’s from a famous family.”
Steve Smith of the Sublette County sheriff’s office verified Monday night that the search for Udall is continuing, with 30 trained professionals from four search and rescue agencies, two helicopters and two dog teams.
A difficult solo hike is typical not only of Randy but also of Udall men in general, friends and colleagues said. Mark Udall was a professional climber before entering office and last week was scheduling a camping trip.
“How many U.S. senators are out there climbing mountains?” Boigon asked. “I don’t think too many. It’s in their fiber, their blood. I think the whole family is like that.”
“You can’t fathom the amount of time he spends outside doing hard, long journeys,” said Schendler, who began hiking with Randy Udall at age 22. “His thesis is that you have to stay outside, keep going even though you’re getting older. He’d be the guy you’d want to find a solution, and we certainly hope that’s what he’s doing now.”