Remarks on Conservation and Beautification at the Signing Ceremony for the Interior Department Appropriation Bill
Ww have before us this morning the regular Interior Department appropriation bill.
Because it touches so many areas of this country and affects the happiness and pleasure of so many people in this country, and because of the unique and unusual contributions that have been made to extending our recreational areas and our park areas and beautification programs, I have asked Secretary Udall to come here this morning. This will be the last appropriation bill--money bill--that I will probably sign in this field, although we have a number of important bills--like the scenic rivers and trails, and redwoods and others--that are pending in the Congress that we expect to have favorably acted upon this year.
I thought I would use this occasion to say to him and to the many thousands of dedicated people in his department, and leading conservationists over the Nation who support it, how grateful I believe the American people are for the fact that he is bringing more recreational areas, more land back into public domain, than we are taking out.
There seems to have been an intensified interest in moving forward to find places for the American family to go for recreation, for play, and places that are available to them.
I am very proud of the effort, under his leadership, that the American Nation, through the support of the Congress, has made.
In 4 years and 8 months, we have passed through the committees, House and Senate, in Interior, Appropriations, and other committees, 278 conservation measures. Some of these measures are minor measures that justifiably affect some State, but it is very important to them. It could be the Guadalupe Park in Texas or the Assateague Park up here on the Maryland shore, but it always affects a lot of people who are going there.
Secretary Udall pointed out to me that 2 years ago there was hardly anyone at Assateague. You couldn't get in there. He went out last week with his family and more than half a million people will be there this year.
The important thing is that these parks are being located close to where people live. Very few of us can get in a car and quickly go to Yellowstone, although many hundreds of thousands do. But a lot of people can enjoy that 50- or 60-mile shoreline because it is located where people are, although it is a rather congested, small acreage.
Of those 278 conservation measures, most have gone unheralded and unsung. Quiet little women in conservation clubs and garden clubs, people who are interested in recreation, wildlife, and things like that, bring these things to the attention of their Congressmen and their Congressmen have helped.
I talked to Mr. Laurance Rockefeller this week about his leadership in the private field. He has gone from State to State inspiring people to preserve areas for our children. He has been a great source of strength and inspiration to me and to the Secretary and Mrs. Johnson, who has gone all over this country trying to enlist local efforts.
We have made up for them a little memento that they can hang in their office in the Interior Department, or wherever they choose to. It is 50 of the more important bills. This is for Secretary Udall and it says:
"To Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior:
"May these pens symbolize your devotion to preserving the beauty of nature for all mankind."
In 4 years and 8 months we have passed 278 significant conservation and beautification bills. These pens represent some of these laws. This goes back to the Air Pollution Act of the last days of 1963. By dates, we bring it on up to cover such important things as the Continental Shelf Act that we have just passed that will bring in $200 million a year for this purpose. There may be some that we will pass this year that we may want to substitute on this list.
Here is a little plaque that I want to give to Mrs. Johnson on which it says:
"To Lady Bird--who has inspired me and millions of Americans to try to preserve our land and beautify our Nation."
Secretary Udall will brief you on the rather important bills which are still pending. We have hopes of passing them this year.
Mr. Rockefeller and the conservation leaders of the country are very interested in helping us. Senator Jackson and Congressman Aspinall are helping us. Some of these measures are in conference, have passed the Senate and haven't passed the House, and some have passed the House and not the Senate. We hope we can wrap them up between now and the time the new President comes in.
Secretary Udall, after this is over, if you desire, will be available to you to discuss the individual programs, to summarize briefly some of what he considers historical achievements, and answer any questions you may have to ask him. [At this point, as the President signed the bill, Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall spoke briefly to say that in 1968 the Department's expenditures were for the first time exceeded by its revenues due to oil leases on the Continental Shelf off California, Texas, and Louisiana. The President then resumed speaking. ]
I had a commander come in to see me several years ago. He was talking about the very important athletic program. He made a survey and a close study of the Olympics.
I said, "That is fine. We are very interested in it. What are you doing to find places for our children in our cities and ghettos--places for them to play?" He hadn't thought of that much. As all of you know, that is one of our big problems.
Secretary Udall has been addressing himself to that problem. I think the thing that concerned Mrs. Johnson most about our Latin American trip out into the schools and the countrysides was when she came into the cities and saw some of the parks and the plazas that the families had once enjoyed that have now been converted into parking lots. The cars occupy the parking lots and the children occupy the streets.
If we are not very careful, we can be shortsighted. We are now going back to some of the Presidents' homes and trying to reclaim land and areas to fit into the historical sites that have been sold off for honky-tonks and commercial buildings.
Out in Iowa, we are trying to put together the Herbert Hoover birthplace. We are adding some to the Franklin D. Roosevelt home at Hyde Park. President Eisenhower has transferred his Gettysburg place. By Executive order last year, Secretary Udall went up and accepted his place.
We are trying to take action on these things before it is too late because after you cut the woods, after you build up the buildings, the cost of tearing them down and replacing them and redoing them is very expensive.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. [At this point Secretary Udall and Mrs. Johnson responded briefly. The President then concluded his remarks.]
I think all of you know Mr. Pierson. He is on my staff. He came from one of the Senate committees. He works in this field as a White House staff man with Secretary Udall. He will be with you and give you any help you want on any individual measure. If you have any questions, he will be glad to answer them.
Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in his office at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Laurance S. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty, Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington and Representative Wayne N. Aspinall of Colorado, chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs, and W. DeVier Pierson, Associate Special Counsel to the President.
The President presented Secretary Udall and Mrs. Johnson with framed sets of 50 pens used in the signing of the first 50 conservation measures of the Johnson administration. Mr. Rockefeller was unable to attend the ceremony but received a similar set of pens from the President on July 31, 1968.
As enacted, the bill (H.R. 17354) is Public Law 90-425 (82 Stat. 425).
As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks on Conservation and Beautification at the Signing Ceremony for the Interior Department Appropriation Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237926