Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill To Establish the Biscayne National Monument

October 18, 1968

Congressman Fascell, Mr. Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

If I had announced that the Government was going to steal some land this afternoon from the American people, I imagine it would have stirred some attention and captured some headlines.

But with the bill that we are signing today, recently passed by the Congress, we are going to do just the reverse; we are giving some land back to the people. And that ought to make a headline. We are continuing the work that we began so proudly 5 years ago. During these 5 years, we have been setting aside the beauty of America--more than 15 million acres of it, doing it in every part of the United States. We have preserved that splendor for the enjoyment of all of our citizens, and of all the generations that are yet to come.

Nothing that has been accomplished in all of these 5 years gives me or Mrs. Johnson a greater sense of reward than this work. We met with Secretary Udall last night for a long time, and members of my staff heard him review his 5 years' stewardship in this administration. He recounted that there had been sent to the White House for the President's signature more than 300 measures. And that would have staggered the imagination of conservationists, even like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, a generation ago.

Now you don't see all of these things in your television or your daily activities report. You rarely read about them. They are quiet and they are unspectacular developments. But some of you people who have done so much for conservation who have come here from Florida and other places today, I think will be interested in them. I visited part of this area a few years ago as a Member of the Senate. I enjoyed its beauty and its serenity, and it is a great delight to me. But it was a private area--the property of a few men. Now it is going to belong to everybody.

I want to give you a few other examples of what has happened and what can happen. In 1964, the year after I came into office, we had 176 national park areas in our inventory. We had spent 188 years collecting these 176 parks--not quite 1 a year. Some Presidents didn't add any. In the last 5 years alone, we have added 44 to those 176--45 today when we sign this one. That is a 20 percent increase. There are now 120 splendid stretches of America, all across this country, where the birds and the beasts of the continent can live as they did before man set his eyes upon them. And of those 120 wildlife refuges, 39 of them have been born since 1964--39 of 120, 45 of 176. We have this year earmarked $1 billion over the next 5 years to continue the momentum of the past 5, and to put aside land for the people's enjoyment.

That is contrasted, Secretary Udall told us last night, to that some $10 million or $12 million that might be spent to acquire land. As a matter of fact, we had a policy of not acquiring any land for a long period in our history.

Now, of this $1 billion that we are setting aside in this 5 years, to acquire new areas to go into the public domain--for the first time we are putting more land back in the public domain than we have been taking out of it-half of these revenues for recreation will come from the proceeds of the oil derricks out on the Continental Shelf.

I am pleased to say that is a resource that belongs to all the people. We passed through the Congress, while they were fighting over some little beautification bill on a highway that Mrs. Johnson was interested in, a $ 1 billion bill that earmarks this for a 5-year period--$200 million a year that can be used to acquire areas for all the people.

All this month, the great work of the "new conservation" has been moving along. In the past few days, I have signed, here at the White House, in the presence of very interested citizens, a measure providing for a Redwood National Park in California. Most of you will remember that bill is about like the tax bill. Everybody predicted its defeat in this Congress that they all said was going to be so unproductive.

But we have signed the redwood bill and it is behind us. We have signed an entire Cascades National Park bill and the money is in to start it. I am going to sign that bill in the next day or two.

We have passed a system of wild and scenic rivers bill and a nationwide system of trails where people can refresh themselves and walk and live with nature.

Today, with great pride, we come here to add an area that is every bit as important as these others--the Biscayne National Monument. I think this is a unique treasure. I am going back to see it. I can't wait until I do. It will give our people almost 200,000 acres of islands and their adjoining bay and ocean waters, and they are all brimming with tropical plant and animal life.

On these islands grow trees that were unknown anywhere else--and Presidents ahead of me used to go there for their retreat. I have seen their pictures in the club rooms of the old days.

These are the last remnants of a vast forest which once covered much of Florida. In these waters are rare tropical animals which now will be assured a haven from destruction.

This is no chain of deserted islands that is far from civilization. The Biscayne National Monument--as you may have observed from the newspapers of late--lies immediately south of the city of Miami, and it is within easy reach of millions of the families who live and visit in that area of the world.

As our population expands and as our urban areas grow, it is not easy to preserve these untouched areas or to bring them into the public domain--such as the islands in Biscayne Bay. First of all, it takes great courage. It takes great vision and it takes great effort and it takes a lot of toughness and a great deal of ability and a knowledge of the public interest and a dedication to it.

One man who possesses these qualities can take much of the credit for this treasure. His name is Congressman Dante Fascell of Florida. And he is with us this afternoon.

Also, Senator Holland, Senator Smathers, and many others in the Congress, who permitted and helped this come to pass.

We recognized the importance of Biscayne Bay, not only to the people of Miami--who are good people--but to the people of America who are entitled to enjoy these treasures.

So today, we are setting it aside, setting it aside, along with the redwoods and the Cascades of the Pacific, setting it aside with Assateague which we have here on the Atlantic, with Fire Island near New York, with the Flaming Gorge, and the Delaware Water Gap. These are important.

You know in our early days when Theodore Roosevelt and some of our other Presidents were so conservation minded and they were trying to have playgrounds and national parks for our country; they were located in the West. The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone--if you could afford a round trip ticket or if you had a month to go by jalopy out there with your family-why you could get to see some of the glories of nature.

But the redwoods and Assateague and Fire Island and Biscayne are all going to be in short distances from population centers, where you can take Molly and the babies on a Sunday afternoon and get back to nature. They are not off in far off remote locations.

So, what we do today is very important work for us, so important for our children, and even more important for theirs, and I think that all of you, particularly Congressman Fascell, will long remember and be proud of the fact that you had some little part in making this come to pass.

Note: The President spoke at 5:54 p.m. ha the Fish Room at the White House. In his opening words be referred to Representative Dante B. Fascell of Florida and Mayor Charles Hall of Dade County, Florida. During his remarks he referred to Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall and Senators Spessard L. Holland and George A. Smathers of Florida.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 551) is Public Law 90-606 (82 Stat. 1188).

For statements and remarks by the president upon signing related legislation, see Items 150, 502, 505, 510.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill To Establish the Biscayne National Monument Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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