Mr. Chief Justice, Secretary Udall, Senator Mansfield, Senator Kuchel, Senator Anderson, Congressman Saylor, distinguished Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen:
This is the fourth time this week that we have met here in the White House to further the cause of conservation.
I believe that all of us who have served in the Government, and particularly in the Congress, during this decade of the sixties will always be proud of this great treasure that together we have conserved.
There are now 24 million acres in our National Park System. Out of 24 million acres, 2,400,000 acres--or at least 10 percent of the total acreage that the Nation has--has been put into that park system since 1961. That compares with fewer than 30,000 acres that were acquired in the entire previous decade.
The 1960's, therefore, have been truly an era of conservation in this country. But no achievement of these past 8 years can surpass what we are about to achieve this afternoon. I speak of saving the great redwoods of California.
Half a century ago, a great conservationist said, "The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God, for they were the best that He ever planted."
In the past 50 years, we have learned--all too slowly, I think--to prize and to protect God's precious gifts. Because we have, our own children and grandchildren will come to know and come to love the great forests and the wild rivers that we have protected and left to them.
I believe this act establishing the Redwood National Park in California will stand for all time as a monument to the wisdom of our generation. It will surely be remembered, I think, as one of the great conservation achievements of the 90th Congress.
It is a great victory for every American in every State, because we have rescued a magnificent and a meaningful treasure from the chain saw. For once we have spared what is enduring and ennobling from the hungry and hasty and selfish act of destruction.
The redwoods will stand because the men and women of vision and courage made their stand--refusing to suffer any further exploitation of our national wealth, any greater damage to our environment, or any larger debasement of that quality and beauty without which life itself is quite barren.
Yes, the redwoods will stand. So long as they do, they will give delight. They will give instruction of God's work as well as nature's miracles. They will declare for all to hear, when other great conservation battles are being fought: "We stand because a nation found its greatest profit in preserving for its heritage its greatest resource, and that is the beauty and the splendor of its land."
The Redwood National Park will contain some 58,000 acres. Its boundaries will surround three State parks. With the approval of the California Legislature, these may some day become part of this great National Park System.
So today we are also approving an act of Congress that sets aside another 1,200,000 acres for parks and recreation in the State of Washington. The North Cascades National Park and its adjoining acres in what have been called the "American Alps" is next door to the Pacific Northwest's most populous communities.
We are preserving for the pleasure of these people one of the most beautiful regions on God's earth. I also have before me the first Federal legislation 'providing a national system of both urban and rural trails.
The simplest pleasures--and healthful exercise--of walking in an outdoor setting have been almost impossible for the millions of Americans who live in the cities. And where natural areas exist within the cities, they are usually not connected by walkways. In many cities, there are simply just no footpaths that lead out of the city into the countryside.
Our history of wise management of America's national forests has assisted us in designating the initial elements of the National Trails System. Two National Scenic Trails, one in the East and one in the West, are being set aside as the first components of the Trails System: the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.
The legislation also calls for study of 14 additional routes for possible inclusion in the Trails System.
A few summers ago, after Secretary Udall took his lovely family on a float trip of high adventure down the turbulent Colorado River, he returned to Washington and said that every individual and every family should get to know at least one river.
So today we are initiating a new national policy which will enable more Americans to get to know more rivers. I have been informed as recently as this morning that I am going to have the rather novel experience of getting to know the Pedernales a good deal better after January. I played on it as a child. I roamed it as a college student and I visited it frequently as President. But my wife has some more specific plans for me to go back and walk it with her--both sides, I think.
I am signing an act today which preserves sections of selected rivers that possess outstanding conservation values.
An unspoiled river is a very rare thing in this Nation today. Their flow and vitality have been harnessed by dams and too often they have been turned into open sewers by communities and by industries. It makes us all very fearful that all rivers will go this way unless somebody acts now to try to balance our river development.
So we are establishing a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System which will complement our river development with a policy to preserve sections of selected rivers in their free-flowing conditions and to protect their water quality and other vital conservation values.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System Act will give immediate protection to portions of eight rivers and a ribbon of land along each river bank.
Five of the eight wild and scenic rivers are located in the National Forest System. Our opportunity to designate these scenic streams depends in large measure on the bold efforts of Secretary Freeman and his Forest Service in preserving their very special qualities.
The act further names 27 rivers as potential additions to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System sometime in the future.
I wish we could find the time--or, if we need to-the courage, to tell our American people more about some of these things than what they are having to listen to.
So, today I want to pay a very special tribute to the leaders in Congress who have made some of these things possible--these men who were all fearless and who were skilled and forceful and whose vitality has given us these magnificent options for conservation. I want to thank Congressman Aspinall, Congressman Saylor, Congressman Taylor, Senator Jackson, and Senator Anderson. This must be a proud day for our beloved friend Senator Kuchel and Senator Bible, who is not with us.
Above all, I want m pay my very special thanks to our beloved Chief Justice who stands for all that is good in this country, and to Mr. Grosvenor of the National Geographic, who has given me inspiration when I needed it most and has given me courage when I thought I needed some more.
Finally, to Mrs. Johnson, who has been an ardent, enthusiastic, pertinacious advocate-long before she ever dreamed that she would be in this house, but every minute that she has been in it--for the complete cause of conservation.
I hope that I may be able to visit some of the locations that you all have helped us to preserve for the American people.
To the business people, to the labor people, to all of you, we say thank you. We are very grateful. The American people should say to you, "Well done." This is really a monument to you, Secretary Udall. Our children will remember your great adventures and pioneering.
Now it gives me great pleasure to approve these bills which I think will add still more to the scenic wealth of our country which I think is going to mean so much to my little grandson and all the others like him who will live in a beautiful America during their lives.
[At this point, Secretary Udall spoke on Federal conservation and recreation programs using a map of the United States showing lands acquired by the Government during the period 1961-68. The President then resumed speaking.]
I just have one thought: You know sometimes we hear "Is there a doctor in the house?" in connection with a crisis. I am just wondering if there is a member of the Appropriations Committee in the house. I can see that we have the vision and Senator Jackson and Members of the House, Congressman Saylor and Congressman Taylor and Congressman Aspinall and others, are authorizing legislation--now it is going to take some help from the Appropriations Committee.