John F. Kennedy photo

Address at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies, Milford, Pennsylvania.

September 24, 1963

Governor Scranton, Dr. Pinchot, Secretary Freeman, Secretary Udall, Mr. Cliff, Senator Clark, Congressman Rooney, Mrs. Pinchot, ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate the warm welcome from Pennsylvania's most valuable natural resource, and we are glad to have the students of this community here today.

I want to express the pleasure of us all from Washington at coming here today, and I also want to express our particular appreciation to the members of the Pinchot family, and also to the men and women who are here today who have worked so many years in the field of conservation. Every great work is in the shadow of a man--and I don't think many Americans can point to such a distinguished record as can Gifford Pinchot--and this institute, which is only the latest manifestation of a most impressive legacy, I think can serve as a welcome reminder of how much we still have to do in our time.

There is no more fitting place to begin a journey of 5 days across the United States to see what can be done to mobilize the attention of this country so that we in the 1960's can do our task in preparing America for all the generations which are still yet to come. There is no more impressive place to begin that journey than here in this town, at this house, in this State of Pennsylvania. James Pinchot was an early leader of the American Forestry Association, and his son Amos, who has many claims to fame, and many claims in our regard, was an active leader in the fight for the preservation of natural resources. The oldest of James Pinchot's three children, of course, was Gifford Pinchot, whose career was best summed up in his own statement upon the 40th anniversary of the Forest Service he had helped to found. "I have been a Governor now and then," he said, "but I have been a forester all the time... and shall be to my dying day." He was more than a forester; he was the father of American conservation. He believed that the riches of this continent should be used for all the people to provide a more abundant life, and he believed that the waste of these resources, or their exploitation by a few, was a threat to our national democratic life.

But all this strong feeling about the resources of America became important because it was disciplined, and because it was directed. He viewed his analysis of the American natural resources scene through the eye of a trained scientist. His career marked the beginning of a professional approach in preserving our national resources. He was a gifted administrator. He was an articulate publicist. He was a tutor of Presidents. In the space of a few short years he made, as Dr. Pinchot said, conservation an accepted virtue, and part of our life which we take for granted today. It is far more fitting and proper, rather than merely ordering what he did, to dedicate this institute to active work today. By its nature it looks to the future, and not the past. The fact of the matter is that this institute is needed, and similar institutes across our country, more today than ever before in our history, because we are reaching the limits of our fundamental needs--of water to drink, of fresh air to breathe, of open space to enjoy, of abundant sources of energy to make life easier.

Today's conservation movement must, therefore, embrace disciplines unknown in the past. It must marshal our vast technological resources in behalf of our resource supplies. It must concern itself with nuclear energy as well as silviculture, with the physics and chemistry of water as well as TVA, with the economic and engineering factors of open space as well as the preservation of all scenic treasures.

Government must provide a national policy framework for this new conservation emphasis; but in the final analysis it must be done by the people themselves. The American people are not by nature wasteful. They are not unappreciative of our inheritance. But unless we, as a country, with the support, and sometimes the direction, of Government, working with State leaders, working with the community, working with all of our citizens, we are going to leave an entirely different inheritance in the next 25 years than the one we found.

Have we ever thought why such a small proportion of our beaches should be available for public use, how it is that so many of our great cities have been developed without parks or playgrounds, why so many of our rivers are so polluted, why the air we breathe is so impure, or why the erosion of our land was permitted to run so large as it has in this State, and in Ohio, and all the way to the West Coast?

I think there is evidence, however, that this Nation can take action--action for which those who come after us will be grateful, which will convert killers and spoilers into allies--by building dams for many purposes, by State and local and national parks, by developing the productivity of our farms, reclaiming land, preventing soil from washing away.

These and other activities demonstrate beyond doubt that what Gifford Pinchot pioneered is now accepted, and no one maintains that this can be left merely to chance in the future. Conservation in the real analysis is the job of us all.

It is not always the other person who pollutes our streams, or litters our highways, or throws away a match in a forest, or wipes out game, or wipes out our fishing reserves. Private commercial establishments occasionally leave this land to be scarred--and move out--through strip mining and a waste of resources. I think all of us therefore must commit ourselves in 1963, in this State and in this country, to a determined effort to preserve what is left, to develop what we have, to make the most effective use of all the resources that have been given to us. And I can assure you in this effort the Federal Government will play its proper role. Its attitude, effort, and legislation must set an example for all the country. The competition for the Federal budget dollar is keen, and that is proper, and we must choose between many different projects. But in the field of resources, the opportunities which are lost now can never be won back. With the principles of Mr. Pinchot clearly in mind, we began 2 years ago to increase the resource development and conservation effort in a variety of ways:

The total national investment by the last Congress in the conservation of water resources reached an all-time high--more than $2 1/2 billion--and among the nine new reclamation projects approved were the Fryingpan-Arkansas and the San Juan-Navajo Indian projects, two of the largest projects of that kind ever approved in a single Congress.

Secondly, three national seashores were created. I don't know why it should be that 6 or 7 percent only of the whole Atlantic Coast should be in the public sphere and the rest owned by private citizens and denied to many millions of our fellow citizens. In the last Congress three national seashores were created for all of our people--Cape Cod on the Atlantic, Point Reyes on the Pacific, and Padre Island on the Gulf--representing the first major additions to our coast-to-coast national park system in 16 years--more seashore parks, and I can assure you they are wholly inadequate, but more seashore parks than were authorized all throughout our history. Other parks and recreation areas are being added, and their ranks, I hope, will soon include the Tocks Island National Recreation Area on the Delaware River. We need recreation areas where the people live, and this can be closer to the largest amount of people in the country. And I am confident that the Congress will move ahead with it.

Third, steam from the Hanford Atomic Reactor, which used to blow away and was wasted, will now be used to produce the equivalent of two Bonneville dams.

Fourth, a full-scale attack on water pollution has been mounted, and under the 1961 amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act, we are doing three times more than was ever done before, and we are doing not nearly enough.

Fifth, the saline water conversion program has been given new emphasis. There are three demonstration plants now in operation. But even in this area, which can promise us a richer harvest than almost any other scientific breakthrough, even here there is a good deal of unfinished business.

Sixth, our urban areas have been aided in the acquisition of open space for park and recreation and other purposes under the provisions of the Housing Act of 1961.

And finally, studies have been initiated under a new nationwide program to provide the States and local governments with information on regulating the use of flood plains and minimizing flood losses.

There are a good many things left to be done, in our forests, on the land, but I hope that this trip through America over the next 5 days, which started so auspiciously, will serve to remind us that every time we drive through a park, go to a park on the beach, see a great national resource which has been preserved in the West, that that has been due to the effort of some people. I hope that in the years to come, that these years in which we live and now hold responsibility, will also be regarded as years of accomplishment in maintaining and expanding the resources of our country which belong to all of our people, not merely those who are now alive, but all those who are coming later, and what Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt, and Amos Pinchot and others did in the first 50 years of this century will serve as a stimulus to all of us in the last 50 years to make this country we love more beautiful.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1 p.m. His opening words referred to William W. Scranton, Governor of Pennsylvania; Dr. Gifford Pinchot 2d, son of the former Governor of Pennsylvania who was the first Chief of the Forest Service in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt; Orville L. Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture; Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior; Edward P. Cliff, Chief of the Forest Service; U.S. Senator Joseph S. Clark and U.S. Representative Fred B. Rooney of Pennsylvania; and Mrs. Amos Pinchot.

The President unveiled a plaque dedicating the Institute, whose site is the former Pinchot estate, donated by the family to the Forest Service.

John F. Kennedy, Address at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies, Milford, Pennsylvania. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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