It is with great pleasure that I sign the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. This bill is the most significant conservation legislation to pass the 95th Congress. This new law reaffirms our Nation's commitment to the preservation of our heritage, a commitment which strives to improve the quality of the present by our dedication to preserving the past and conserving our historical and natural resources for our children and grandchildren. It honors those who helped to shape and develop this Nation; it acknowledges our need to receive strength and sustenance from natural beauty; and it addresses the pressing need to improve recreational opportunities in our urban areas.
Specifically, this bill:
—Establishes 15 new traits in the National Park System and authorizes increased land acquisition and other improvements in numerous existing units;
—Designates 1,974,005 acres in 8 National Parks as wilderness;
—Authorizes $725 million over the next 5 years to renovate recreation facilities in urban areas;
—Establishes 8 new rivers as components of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System; and
—Designates 17 new rivers to be studied for addition to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Many of the specific items in this act were included in my 1977 environmental message to the Congress, and I want to thank the Congress for moving forward with these administration proposals. This bill also includes the administration's Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program, which will provide $725 million of assistance to urban areas for use in augmenting their urban recreation programs. The passage of this legislation is a great achievement.
However, I must note my reservations regarding the constitutionality of one of the bill's provisions, Sec. 1301, which would require the Secretary of Agriculture to seek the permission of Congress to exercise his existing power to exchange certain Federal lands in the State of Montana for certain private lands in that State where an exchange involves more than 6,400 acres. It is my view, and that of the Department of Justice, that the execution of laws such as those empowering the Secretary of Agriculture to exchange Federal land for non-Federal land may not be invalidated or otherwise controlled by Congress except by legislation subject to the President's veto power under Art. I, Sec. 7 of the Constitution. For this reason, I have directed the Secretary of Agriculture to report to the Congress, pursuant to the reporting requirement of Sec. 1301, the details of land-for-land exchanges covered by Sec. 1301 and to listen to any concerns which may be expressed by the specified congressional committees. At the same time, I have instructed the Secretary that he may consummate any land-for-land exchanges covered by Sec. 1301 which are, in his opinion, otherwise authorized by statute, irrespective of the acreage involved.
A great number of people contributed to the passage of this legislation. I would like to give special recognition to the efforts of Representative Phil Burton and Senator James Abourezk. Without their exceptional leadership this legislation would not be before me today. I am proud that this administration has taken an active part in the passage of this legislation.
I look forward to working with the Congress to assure its swift implementation.