Secretary Udall, Senator Mansfield, Senator Jackson, Senator Bible, Congressman O'Brien, Senators from the States involved, Members of Congress, Mrs. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen:
We have come here this morning to give part of our country back to its people.
When our forefathers came here they found nature's masterpiece. They found a beautiful, rich, varied, fertile land, a whole continent to farm and to hunt on, and to explore.
As Robert Frost said, "The land was ours before we were the land's. She was our land more than a hundred years before we were her people."
Our pioneer fathers made this beautiful land a great nation. But when the wave of settlement reached the Pacific, it turned back upon itself. America began to exploit the land. We chopped down its forests. We abused its soil. We built upon its beaches.
Some Americans realized our loss--Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harold Ickes. They saw that America could be great only as long as Americans could commune with the land. They were the architects of American conservation.
Today our crowded country thanks them--thanks them for their courage and for their vision, and for their generosity.
This year we reach a milestone in the history of conservation. This year, thanks to the 89th Congress, we will restore more land for more parks, for more playgrounds for our children to use, than we will lose to housing ventures, to highways, to airports, and to shopping centers.
We are creating recreation areas where they will do the most good for the greatest number, for all of our people--near our cities, where most of our people live. We are putting national parks and seashores where a man and his family can get to them.
The father that is the mechanic can load his five children in his car, and in an hour or 2 hours, or 3 hours, take them to a nearby playground.
The 89th Congress has done all of this. It has enacted 20 major conservation measures. Today we pay tribute to that Congress. Today we establish by act of Congress:
--The Guadalupe Mountain National Park in Texas. That is a great tribute to the Senator from Texas, Senator Yarborough, who has been the outstanding leader in conservation in that State.
--The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.
--The Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana.
--The Wolf Trap Farm Park in Virginia.
We increase the land in the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. And if we don't stop Mrs. Johnson going out there we will increase it some more, I am afraid.
I am also signing today the endangered species preservation act and the national historic preservation act. Both of these will help us to preserve for our children the heritage of this great land we call America that our forefathers first saw.
The bills that I will now sign help enrich the spirit of America.
These acts of Congress help assure that this land of ours--this gift that is outright from God--shall be the most precious legacy that we leave.
I want to express my gratitude to the leaders of the parks movements, the recreation areas, the State commissions and their executive directors, for their enlightened interest, for their support, and particularly for the presence of a good many of them this morning.