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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on Outdoor Recreation Needs.

February 14, 1963

Dear Mr.___________:

In my Conservation Message last year I pointed out that adequate outdoor recreation facilities are among the basic requirements of a sound conservation program. The need for an aggressive program to provide for our outdoor recreation needs is both real and immediate, as demonstrated by the significant findings and recommendations of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. Accordingly, I am transmitting with this letter draft legislation which would help provide for these needs through the establishment of a Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, a bipartisan group including eight members of the Congress, found that the demand for outdoor recreation is growing dramatically. Americans are seeking the out-of-doors as never before--about 90 percent participate annually in some form of outdoor recreation. Today's resources are inadequate to today's needs and the public demand for outdoor recreation opportunities is expected to triple by the turn of the century.

Last year in my Conservation Message I noted that our magnificent national parks, monuments, forests, and wildlife refuges were in most cases either donated by States or private citizens or carved out of the public domain, and that these sources can no longer be relied upon. The Nation needs a land acquisition program to preserve both prime Federal and State areas for outdoor recreation purposes. The growth of our cities, the development of our industry, the expansion of our transportation systems--all manifestations of our vigorous and expanding society- preempt irreplaceable lands of natural beauty and unique recreation value. In addition to the enhancement of spiritual, cultural, and physical values resulting from the preservation of these resources, the expenditures for their preservation are a sound financial investment. Public acquisition costs can become multiplied and even prohibitive with the passage of time.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund measure I am proposing will enable the States to play a greater role in our national effort to improve outdoor recreation opportunities. This proposal grows out of and is generally consistent with the recommendations of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission.

The Recreation Advisory Council, made up of the heads of the departments and the agency principally concerned with recreation, is now functioning and provides a forum for considering national recreation policy and for facilitating joint efforts among the various agencies. A Bureau of Outdoor Recreation has also been established in the Department of the Interior to serve as a focal point for correlation within the Federal Government for Federal activities and to provide assistance to the States.

The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission recommended that the States play the pivotal role in providing for present and future outdoor recreation needs. They face major problems, however, in financing needed outdoor recreation facilities. Accordingly, I am proposing in the Land and Water Conservation Fund a program of grants-in-aid to the States to assist them in their outdoor recreation planning, acquisition and development. The proposed grants-in-aid would be matched by the States and thus serve to stimulate and encourage broad State action.

The Federal portion of the Fund--estimated at 40 percent--would be authorized for acquisition of land and waters in connection with the National Park System, the National Forest System, or for preservation of fish and wildlife threatened with extinction. No new acquisition authorities are contemplated in the proposal. The fund would provide a source of funding for existing acquisition authorities or for those subsequently enacted.

It is reasonable and in the public interest that needed improvements and expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities be financed largely on a pay-as-you-go basis from a system of fees collected from the direct beneficiaries--the users of Federal recreation lands and waters. The proposed Land and Water Conservation Fund would therefore be financed in part from Federal entrance, admission, or other recreation user fees. In addition, the Fund would be financed from the sale of Federal surplus real property and from the proceeds of the existing 4¢ tax on marine gasoline and special motor fuels used in pleasure boats.

The enclosed letter from the Secretary of the Interior discusses additional features of the proposal.

Actions deferred are all too often opportunities lost, particularly in safeguarding our natural resources. I urge the enactment of this proposal at the earliest possible date so that a further significant step may be taken to assure the availability and accessibility of land and water-based recreation opportunities for all Americans.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

For the President's 1962 conservation message, see 1962 volume, this series, Item 69. See also 1962 volume, Item 128. The recommendations of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Committee are published in "Outdoor Recreation for America" (Government Printing Office, 1962, 246 pp.).

John F. Kennedy, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on Outdoor Recreation Needs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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