IT IS particularly fitting that my first official act in this new decade is to approve the National Environmental Policy Act.
The past year has seen the creation of a President's Cabinet committee on environmental quality,1 and we have devoted many hours to the pressing problems of pollution control, airport location, wilderness preservation, highway construction, and population trends.
1The Environmental Quality Council, established May 29, 1969, by Executive Order 11472 and renamed the Cabinet Committee on the Environment on March 5, 1970, by Executive Order 11514.
By my participation in these efforts I have become further convinced that the 1970's absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment. It is literally now or never.
I, therefore, commend the Congress and particularly the sponsors of this bill, Senators Stevens and Jackson and Representative Dingell, for this clear legislative policy declaration. Under the provisions of this law a three-member council of environmental advisers will be appointed. I anticipate that they will occupy the same close advisory relation to the President that the Council of Economic Advisers does in fiscal and monetary matters. The environmental advisers will be assisted by a compact staff in keeping me thoroughly posted on current problems and advising me on how the Federal Government can act to solve them.
In the near future I will forward to the Senate names of highly qualified individuals to help both the Cabinet and me in the critical decisions that will affect the quality of life in the United States for years to come. I will then take the necessary executive action to reconstitute the Cabinet committee and its staff to avoid duplication of function.
On the latter point, I know that the Congress has before it a proposal to establish yet another staff organization to deal with environmental problems in the Executive Office of the President. I believe this would be a mistake.
No matter how pressing the problem, to over-organize, to over-staff, or to compound the levels of review and advice seldom brings earlier or better results.
We are most interested in results. The act I have signed gives us an adequate organization and a good statement of direction. We are determined that the decade of the seventies will be known as the time when this country regained a productive harmony between man and nature.