Letter to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill To Create a Land Conservation fund.
Implementing one of the major recommendations in my message of last month to the Congress on Conservation, I am transmitting herewith draft legislation to provide for the establishment of a land conservation fund.
The report of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, and independent recreation surveys undertaken by the National Park Service, the forest Service, the National Recreation Association, and other public and private agencies confirm the urgent need for public action and public expenditures to acquire and preserve land and water areas of high value for public outdoor recreation purposes. It is clear that we must act now to expand existing recreational resources to meet our present and future needs.
This bill proposes a fiscally responsible means of financing the acquisition of land and water areas essential for an adequate recreational land base: national parks and areas of national scenic, scientific, historic, and recreational significance; lands of high recreation and other conservation values within the national forest system; lands for the preservation of endangered species of wildlife; and lands adjoining Federal reservoirs to assure the maximum recreation and fish and wildlife benefits for the public.
The loss and threatened loss of key public recreation sites to non-compatible uses, the steady escalation of land prices and the unmet and growing public demand combine to justify a sharply increased and regularized program of land acquisition.
The bill establishes or authorizes new revenue sources, and dedicates receipts from these and certain existing revenues to the Federal recreational lands program. Expenditures for developing suitable facilities on both existing and newly acquired areas will not be financed by the special fund, but through the normal appropriations processes.
The four revenue sources proposed by the bill are:
1. Proceeds from entrance, admission and other recreation user fees on Federal land and water areas.
2. Proceeds from the sale of Federal surplus nonmilitary real property.
3. That portion of the gasoline excise tax for gasoline used in boats which is now fundable under existing law.
4. Revenues from a new system of annual Federal user charges on recreation boats.
The rationale underlying the selection of these revenue sources is that direct beneficiaries of recreational facilities made possible by Federal programs would prefer to have any fees or charges collected from them applied to insuring adequate recreational land and water areas for the future needs of our expanding population. In the case of receipts from the sale of surplus Federal property, it is appropriate to effect what amounts to an exchange of unneeded land for what clearly is land essential to a worthwhile Federal purpose.
Dedication of receipts from gas tax revenues paid by boat owners and operators and user charges on recreation boats to a fund of this character is especially appropriate. The services that boat owners receive from the Federal Government are of great value and, for the most part, no compensation is paid for these services. Aside from the improvements to rivers, harbors, beaches, and seashores, significant benefits to boat owners and operators are provided by the Coast Guard, for example, in the fields of navigation aids, education, rescue, safety and registration-services which must continue to be available and made even more effective as the number of boats on our lakes, rivers, and seashores increases.
Revenues realized from these sources would be deposited in a separate account in the Treasury and handled in the following manner: (a) a portion of the revenues will be transferred to the general fund of the Treasury to help offset the costs of acquiring additional lands for public recreation and fish and wildlife enhancement at Federal reservoirs, financed through project appropriations to water-resources agencies; and (b) the remaining revenues will be transferred to the Land Conservation fund established by the bill. In addition, the legislation would authorize advance appropriations of $500 million to the fund to be used for an 8-year program (through fiscal year 1970) to permit the acquisition program to be initiated without delay. These advances would be repaid from the sources outlined above.
It is my intention to create a Land Conservation Commission consisting of the Secretary of the Interior, as Chairman, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Army to advise me on the establishment of user fees on Federal land and water areas which would be authorized by the bill and on the division of the revenues between the Land Conservation fund and general treasury receipts.
The proposed Land Conservation fund is for the acquisition of lands by the Federal Government. But, as the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission emphasizes, State and local governments must also increase their investment in recreational lands and waters if national needs are to be met. Indeed, the greatest portion of the burden must ultimately be borne by State and local governments.
Local governments are now assisted in the acquisition of urban open space under provisions of the Housing Act of 1961, and new legislation is being proposed in keeping with the recommendation in my message on Conservation to assist the States through matching grants for comprehensive statewide outdoor recreation planning.
It has been traditional to regard the out-of-doors as "free." In fact, however, outdoor recreation programs have been supported through a combination of general revenues and special levies such as National Park admission fees, fishing and hunting stamps and licenses, and Federal excise taxes on fishing tackle and sporting arms and ammunition. This bill broadens the application of established principles as a means of assuring continued outdoor recreation opportunity.
In conserving our national outdoors areas, opportunities delayed generally mean opportunities lost. The need is both real and immediate. I urge prompt and favorable action on these proposals.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
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.
The report of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, transmitted to the President January 31, 1962, is entitled "Outdoor Recreation for America" (Government Printing Office, 1962, 246 pp.).
John F. Kennedy, Letter to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill To Create a Land Conservation fund. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/236337