Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate Retransmitting Proposed Bicentennial Land Heritage Legislation
[Dated January 19, 1977. Released January 20, 1977]
I AM transmitting herewith draft legislation, "To authorize appropriations for the acquisition, improvement, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the National Park System and National Wildlife Refuges, and to increase grants to communities to improve park and recreation facilities." Appropriations for the implementation of the Act are requested in a 1977 supplemental appropriations request which has been transmitted with the 1978 Budget.
This proposal, "The Bicentennial Land Heritage Act" is similar to draft legislation which I transmitted to the 94th Congress on August 31, 1976. Because the 94th Congress adjourned sine die without acting on this matter, I am retransmitting the draft legislation which accompanied my August 31 message.
The Bicentennial Land Heritage Program would establish a ten year national commitment to double America's heritage of national parks, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, urban parks and historic sites. It would authorize the appropriation of $1.5 billion for the acquisition, improvement, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the National Park System and National Wildlife Refuges, and would increase grants to communities to improve park and recreation facilities.
Enactment of my proposal would establish a $1.5 billion program to: --provide $141 million to be used to acquire lands for parks, wildlife refuges,
recreation areas, and historic sites;
--provide $959 million to upgrade and develop new and existing parks and
refuges into recreation and conservation resources ready to serve the public;
--provide $200 million for increased staffing for the national parks and wildlife refuges; and,
--provide $200 million for grants to cities to upgrade present park areas in disrepair.
This program will significantly influence the future of the 31 million-acre National Park System. The System, with its 291 areas, contains outstanding natural features and historic sites. This program will provide for developing and maintaining these areas to the highest standards; standards befitting the nationally significant resources to be found in these areas. The program will assure sufficient management and protection of the resources in our park areas, and will also finance the facilities and personnel needed to make these resources available to the visiting public. The addition of lands to the System, coupled with effective resource management, will increase opportunities for outdoor recreation, as well as insure the protection and perpetuation of park resources for future generations. Their inclusion would also help to alleviate overcrowding problems at some areas currently in the System which have experienced sharply accelerated visitation during recent years.
The Bicentennial Land Heritage Program will also be important to the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 385 National Wildlife Refuges which encompass 34 million acres provide habitat for a wide variety of the Nation's fish and wildlife. Funds authorized by the Bicentennial Land Heritage Act will be used to increase the size of the staff which manages refuges, and to repair, rehabilitate, construct, and maintain facilities. In addition, funds will be available for the acquisition of new refuges.
To assist in needed maintenance and improvement of urban parks and recreation facilities the Program would also authorize $200 million of additional funds for the Community Development Block Grant Program, pursuant to the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. It will be strongly urged that these additional funds be used for recreation programs.
In my August 31 message originally transmitting this bill, I urged the Congress to join with me in reaffirming our Nation's commitment to preserve the best of our vast and beautiful country and the wildlife inhabitating it. I now repeat my request. This program represents a sound investment in America which will pay off handsomely by permanently insuring and enriching the natural treasures to be inherited by future generations. All Americans must stand committed to conserve and cherish our incomparable natural heritage--our wildlife, our air, our water resources and our land itself. As our Nation begins its third century, we must renew our commitment to save this great natural heritage for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans.
Accordingly, I strongly urge the Congress to enact the proposed "Bicentennial Land Heritage Act" which establishes a program designed to ensure the fulfillment of this national commitment.
GERALD R. FORD
Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Honorable Nelson A. Rockefeller, President of the Senate.
Gerald R. Ford, Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate Retransmitting Proposed Bicentennial Land Heritage Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/256788