Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Special Message to the Congress: Protecting Our Natural Heritage

January 30, 1967

To the Congress of the United States:




Two months ago, a mass of heavily polluted air--filled with poisons from incinerators, industrial furnaces, power plants, car, bus and truck engines--settled down upon the sixteen million people of Greater New York.

For four days, anyone going out on the streets inhaled chemical compounds that threatened his health. Those who remained inside had little protection from the noxious gases that passed freely through cooling and heating systems.

An estimated eighty persons died. Thousands of men and women already suffering from respiratory diseases lived out the four days in fear and pain.

Finally, the winds came, freeing the mass of air from the weather-trap that had held it so dangerously. The immediate crisis was ended. New Yorkers began to breathe "ordinary" air again.

"Ordinary" air in New York, as in most large cities, is filled with tons of pollutants: carbon monoxide from gasoline, diesel and jet engines, sulphur oxides from factories, apartment houses, and power plants; nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and a broad variety of other compounds. These poisons are not so dramatically dangerous most days of the year, as they were last Thanksgiving in New York. But steadily, insidiously, they damage virtually everything that exists.

They aggravate respiratory problems in man--asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and emphysema. Emphysema, a lung disease, is one of the fastest growing causes of death in the United States today. And it forces more than a thousand workers into early retirement every month.

Polluted air corrodes machinery. It defaces buildings. It may shorten the life of whatever it touches--and it touches everything.

This is not a problem of our largest cities alone. Weirton, West Virginia, and Gary, Indiana, are two among many communities that suffer days when the sun seems a pale orange ball hidden in a noxious cloud. Small towns, farmlands, forests--men, animals and plants--are all affected by the waste we release into the air.

The economic loss from pollution amounts to several billions each year. But the cost in human suffering and pain is incalculable.

This situation does not exist because it was inevitable, nor because it cannot be controlled. Air pollution is the inevitable consequence of neglect. It can be controlled when that neglect is no longer tolerated.

It will be controlled when the people of America, through their elected representatives, demand the right to air that they and their children can breathe without fear.


We have proposed and the Congress has enacted three laws since 1963, each representing some forward movement toward cleaner air.

Under these laws, we are spending more than $25 million this year in matching grants to cities and states, and in research and other efforts:

--We have helped to create 80 local air pollution programs, and to strengthen 40 others.

--We are working in nine areas of the United States--including the New York-New Jersey area--to abate pollution that passes across state lines and is beyond the reach of any single state or city.

--We have established a system of national standards for motor vehicles, that will become effective with the 1968 models. These will require sharp reductions in pollution from automobile exhausts.

--We have begun by Executive Order to control the sources of air pollution on Federal installations throughout the country. The experience we gain in carrying out this order will help us develop more effective ways of controlling pollution elsewhere.

--We have intensified our research work on sulphur oxide pollution from coal and oil burning, and on pollution from motor vehicles.


Yet the pollution problem is getting worse. We are not even controlling today's level of pollution. Ten years from now, when industrial production and waste disposal have increased and the number of automobiles on our streets and highways exceeds 110 million, we shall have lost the battle for clean air--unless we strengthen our regulatory and research efforts now.

Federal action alone cannot master pollution. The states, the cities and private industry must commit themselves more fully, more effectively, and with a new sense of urgency, to America's struggle against poisoned air. Several steps are needed now.

To move forward in our attack against air pollution, I recommend the Air Quality Act of 1967.

First, emission control levels should be set for those industries that contribute heavily to air pollution.

Today, no such levels exist. Industries do not know to what extent they should control their sources of pollution or what will be required of them in the future. Strong State and local standards--essential to pollution control--cannot be effective if neighboring states and cities do not have strong standards of their own. Nor can such local standards gain the support of industry and the public, unless they know that plants in adjoining communities must also meet standards at least as strict.

We need the means to insure comparable emission levels for a given industrial source of pollution throughout the country.

I recommend that the Air Quality Act of 1967 authorize the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to:

--Designate those industries in interstate commerce that are nationally significant sources of air pollution.

--Develop and publish industry-wide emission levels in consultation with the industry concerned.

--Provide each state the opportunity to adopt equivalent levels--or stricter ones.

--Apply the Federal levels in those states which do not adopt their own. The levels will establish pollution limits that a given industrial plant may not exceed-no matter where it is located. Our aim is to provide uniformity and stability in pollution control levels in cooperation with industry and local governments.

Second, Regional Air Quality Commissions should be established, to enforce pollution control measures in "regional airsheds" which cut across state and local boundaries.

Winds carrying waste gases have no respect for man-made political boundaries. The question we must answer is: shall we, the victims of pollution, hinder our fight against it by concerning ourselves more with artificial boundaries than with our people's health?

Today, although many of our severest pollution problems involve more than one state jurisdiction, there is not a single effective interstate program in the Nation. Efforts to achieve uniform control activities among neighboring states and communities have failed, despite added Federal financial incentives.

Under the Clean Air Act of 1963, we have attempted to encourage States to develop effective regional control programs. The Act offered three Federal dollars for every local dollar spent to develop and support regional interstate air pollution control programs. Despite this incentive, no effective regional programs have been developed under the Act.

Men and women in one community, where there are relatively strict control standards, must suffer each time the winds bring in the aerial refuse of another community, where the standards are weak or nonexistent.

This is neither fair to the community that is willing to adopt strong controls, nor responsible to the citizens of the entire region.

We must develop the means to deal with sources of pollution that affect more than one political jurisdiction. We must have laws that do more than set in motion cumbersome legal processes requiring years to effect results.

I recommend that the Air Quality Act of 1967 authorize the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to:

--Designate those interstate areas where effective regional airshed pollution programs are needed, but do not exist.

--Establish, in consultation with the states and local communities affected, a Regional Air Quality Commission in each such area. Each Regional Air Quality Commission would include two persons from each state involved, and one Federal official appointed by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

The Commissions would establish regional air quality levels which would build upon the nationwide levels for major sources of air pollution, including industrial sources. The levels would encompass the entire pollution problem in a regional airshed--from waste burning and motor vehicle engines, as well as from industry. In every case, the Commissions will give due regard for the economic and technical feasibility of achieving adequate pollution control.

Each Regional Air Quality Commission would:

--Determine, in consultation with the industries and local communities involved, air quality levels to protect the public health and welfare in the region;

--Set emission levels to assure that the air quality levels will be met. These emission levels would be no less stringent than any applicable levels published by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare;

--Achieve compliance with those emission levels through enforcement proceedings initiated by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

Third, vehicle pollution control devices, required on 1968 modal cars and in years to come, should be inspected on a regular basis by the states, with Federal assistance to initiate state inspection systems.

This Fall, new cars must be certified as meeting Federal exhaust emission standards when they are delivered to the retail showroom. But the best mechanical devices can fail through damage, the passage of time, or neglect. Many states have long recognized that the safety of our people requires periodic inspection of automobiles, to determine whether critical components are still in sound working order.

If a car's brakes--and its steering wheel, horn, turn signals, and lights--should be inspected periodically to protect against bodily injury, then surely its exhaust control device should be examined as well. In 1965, the Congress made the determination that such devices were required to protect the public health. The time has come to take the next step. We should insure that these anti-pollution devices continue to function properly during the useful life of the car.

I recommend that the Air Quality Act of 1967 authorize the Secretary of Transportation to provide matching grants to help the states establish inspection programs for motor vehicle pollution control. The Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare would establish criteria for these grants.

Fourth, eve must take steps to improve our enforcement procedures.

The Federal enforcement procedures established under the Clean Air Act of 1963 involve long delays between hearings, findings, and the completion of enforcement proceedings. Many state and local communities encounter similar difficulties with their own enforcement procedures. The problems are intricate and complex, but we must find ways to improve the enforcement process, while at the same time assuring that the rights of all of the parties are fully protected.

I am directing the Acting Attorney General and the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, in consultation with state and local officials, to find ways to speed and improve the enforcement of clean air laws at all levels of government.

Fifth, research in fuel additives must be accelerated.

The use of fuel additives is growing, as demands for heat and energy grow. The extra power that additives give to diesel fuels, for example, is an important factor in the economics of trucking.

Yet, when exhaust fumes are sufficiently concentrated, some fuel additives are known to be detrimental to health. Other additives and the compounds that derive from them may pose similar hazards. We simply do not know what public health price we are paying for the economic benefits we gain from fuel additives.

I am directing the Secretary of Education and Welfare to begin a new search program on the health effects of additives and on their contribution to pollution. As an essential part of this gram, l recommend that the Congress quire that all fuel additives be registered with the Secretary of Health, Education and fare.

Sixth, our efforts to understand and control air pollution must be intensified broadened.

Many sources of air pollution cannot be economically or effectively present technology. The sheer number of motor vehicles may, within a decade or two, defy the best pollution control methods we can develop. If this proves true, surely cannot continue to use the type of internal combustion engine now in service. New types of internal combustion engines--or indeed new propulsion systems--may be required. Aircraft engine exhausts are also becoming significant pollution problems., Sulfur compounds--created wherever coal or oil is burned--threaten the environment of almost every city and town in America.

We must recognize that in dealing with fuels for industry and motor vehicles, we are dealing with matters of enormous importance to every section of the Nation and to many economic interests. America's technology and natural resources development are intimately involved in any program that affects fuels and their uses. Great investments have been made on given assumptions about those fuels and uses.

These considerations require that we approach the pollution problem with respect for its complexity and its economic implications.

But the health of our people, and indeed the health of the whole urban and rural environment, also require us to approach the pollution problem with urgency and tenacity.

The Clean Air Act of 1963 provided new authority to make grants for research and training, planning, and development of local control programs. Since then, we have invested $16.9 million in research grants, $5 million in training and $4.6 million for surveys and pilot projects. This work has moved us along in our search for new solutions to the difficult technical and social problems associated with air pollution.

We are now ready to launch a wide-ranghag research effort, involving government, private industry, universities, and independent research groups.

Our immediate research targets must include:

--motor vehicle emissions;

--smoke and odors from diesel engines;

--alternative means of motor vehicle propulsion;

--sulfur dioxide emissions;

--low sulfur, or sulfur-free fuels.

I recommend an increase of 50 per cent in funds to expand our research efforts.

I am asking the Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors and the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to explore appropriate measures to encourage industry and local governments to abate pollution. I have asked them to meet with business and local government leaders, and to present their recommendations to me.

It is in private laboratories, and in private boardrooms, that the crucial decisions on new fuels, new control technology, and new means of developing power and locomotion will be made. We should support private efforts now to expand the range of their alternatives and make wiser choices possible.

The government's relationship with private industry in this field should not be one merely of regulator and regulated. Pollution affects the lungs and eyes of worker, manager, owner, and government servant alike. The air cannot be divided into convenient shares. It is indivisible--and either dear and beneficial-or fouled and dangerous for all of us. Out of personal interest, as out of public duty, industry has a stake in making the air fit to breathe. An enlightened government will not only encourage private work toward that goal, but join and assist where it can.

America's air pollution problem emerges from our success as a modern nation. Sources of pollution may be environmental villains-but they are also social and economic necessities. Our task is to determine how to abate the poison they pour upon the air, without seriously diminishing the benefits they provide. Surely this is not beyond the capacity of a great nation's productive and scientific genius. Clearly, it is an absolute necessity for the health of the American people.



The automobile is a central feature of American life. It is a principal instrument of transportation and daily activity. In this mobile society, the safety and beauty of our highways are of direct concern to all of us.

In 1966, I proposed and you in the Congress approved the first comprehensive traffic safety program in the nation's history. This measure was a forceful recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the mounting toll of death and destruction on our highways. Under these programs, we are already:

--Working with State and local governments in a broad attack on all aspects of the highway safety problem.

--Launching a comprehensive research program to probe into the "whys" and "hows" of traffic accidents.

--Preparing to issue the first standards to make our automobiles safer. In 1965, I proposed and you in the Congress approved legislation to preserve and restore natural beauty along our highways and to ensure effective control over billboards and junkyards.

Under the Law, over 2,200 projects have been developed by states under the Highway Beautification Program.

Unsightly junkyards are being removed and screened. Roadside rest areas are being built and improved. Scenic strips along our highways are being acquired. In consultation with the States, the Secretary of Transportation is preparing a program of effective billboard regulation.

With the cooperation of all levels of government, we are moving toward our objective to make beauty part of the daily life of every American.

These vital programs have started well. Now, we must provide for their continued financing. We must do this so that our children, and their children can enjoy the benefits of a vast highway network that we cared enough about to improve and protect and make safe and scenic.

To provide a sound financing plan, l recommend the creation of a special Highway Safety and Beauty Trust Fund to be financed with the receipts from two percentage points of the excise tax on new automobiles.



This continent is an abundance, continually being discovered and developed--some. times wastefully, more commonly now with prudent foresight.

Much of its richness still lies hidden or unused. Untouched mineral resources lie beneath the American topsoil. Food, minerals, and fresh water lie untapped within and beneath the oceans off our shores. The economic use of subsurface space is still beyond our powers.

The time has come to:

--Encourage the development of power from geothermal steam springs on Federal lands;

--Increase our scientific knowledge of the sea's resources;

--Develop rapid excavation techniques, to reduce the cost of underground construction;

--Examine our non-fuel minerals needs;

--Strengthen our ability to answer broad energy policy questions.


This untapped source of power"exemplified by the "Old Faithful" geyser--lies within several western states on lands under Federal control. It holds vast potential as a source of power for our cities and our industries. Legislation must be passed before leases can be granted to develop these geothermal steam resources. Congress last year passed such legislation, but it was deficient in several critical aspects, and, in my judgment, and the judgment of my principal advisers in this field, insufficiently protected the public interest.

I have directed the Secretary of the Interior to: --Submit a bill that will avoid the defects of the vetoed measure, contain additional safeguards to protect the public interest, and encourage the development of geothermal steam.

--Withdraw all lands potentially valuable for geothermal resource development from sale, entry, settlement or location pending enactment of such a bill.


The ocean floor is an immense storehouse of mineral wealth. Intense research will shortly begin to identify those minerals.

The new National Council for Marine Resources and Engineering Development, chaired by the Vice President, will review our oceanographic program and recommend new directions for research. The new ship, Oceanographer, the best equipped instrument of research on the seas, will shortly begin a round-the-world voyage. Geological mapping is being conducted now on the West Coast, and will begin in the Gulf of Mexico in 1968.

Long-range, we know that we must turn out enough competent scientists, engineers, and technicians to conduct the ocean research and development of tomorrow. Congress last year devised and passed the Sea-Grant College program, in which students will work .and enlarge their talents and our knowledge m many of the Marine Sciences. The Director of the National Science Foundation is organizing that program now.

The sea is the source, not only minerals, but of vast food reserves. Animal protein-desperately needed by hundreds of millions of ill-fed human beings--abounds in the sea. With the strong support of the Congress, we are trying to develop economic and acceptable methods of converting fish protein into a usable source of food. I have directed the Secretary of Interior to proceed with this effort on an urgent basis.


The clutter of our land not only offends our sense of beauty, but also limits our capacity to live fully and work effectively. Living space itself is a valuable resource. Webs of wire, carrying power and communications services, mar the landscape. Congestion has reached serious proportions in many of our metropolitan centers.

A promising alternative to this clutter-the earth's depths beneath us--has received only passing attention. But it can provide a location for the arteries a modern city must have--the wires, pipes, tubes, passageways and parking spaces.

Subsurface excavation today is difficult, slow and expensive. One hundred miles of subway, to be built in major urban areas during the next 10 years, will cost more than $1 billion for excavation alone. Obviously, we must develop cheaper and better methods. I recommend a program for research to develop rapid and low-cost excavation technology.

The beauty of cities and rural areas can be protected and enhanced by placing utility transmission lines underground. Many technical problems remain unsolved, however, especially those involving high-voltage power lines.

I have directed the Secretary of the Interior to initiate a cooperative research program with industry, to find solutions to these technical problems, and to seek ways to reduce the cost of placing utility lines underground.


Sharply rising world demands threaten to exhaust the best and most accessible deposits of minerals. Rapidly changing demands for materials are bringing changes in our mineral needs. We must understand the technological and economic changes taking place. The last comprehensive study of these problems was completed by the President's Materials Policy Commission in 1952. Much has happened in the past decade and a half. A new examination is needed.

I am requesting from the Congress the necessary funds for the Secretary of the Interior to sponsor a comprehensive study of the problems involved in maintaining adequate and low-cost supplies of non-fuel minerals.


The number and complexity of Federal decisions on energy issues have been increasing, as demand grows and competitive situations change. Often decisions in one agency and under one set of laws--whether they be regulatory standards, tax rules or other provisions--have implications for other agencies and other laws, and for the total energy industry. We must better understand our future energy needs and resources. We must make certain our policies are directed towards achieving these needs and developing those resources.

I am directing the President's Science Adviser and his office of Science and Technology to sponsor a thorough study of energy resources and to engage the necessary staff to coordinate energy policy on a government. wide basis.



As our population increases, our cities grow, and our industry expands, water becomes an increasingly precious resource. Many regions of the country are facing critical problems of water supply. We must thoroughly explore every means for assuring an adequate supply of pure water to arid areas like the Southwest.

I am renewing my recommendation for the enactment of legislation to establish a National Water Commission. Working with the Water Resources Council and with Federal, State and private agencies, the Commission will examine our major water problems and develop recommendations, guidelines, and long-range plans for the most effective use of available water resources.

Adding to our pure water supply is not enough. The steady encroachment of pollution continues, throughout America's lakes, and coastal waters. During the year-and-a-half, we have acquired means for resisting its progress. we shall use those means to turn it back decisively:

--The Water Quality Act of 1965 requires that water quality standards be set on all interstate and coastal waters, and calls for plans to achieve those standards.

--The transfer of the water pollution program to the Department of the Interior permits the comprehensive management and development of the nation's water resources.

--The Clean Water Restoration Act of 1966 creates new incentives for states and cities, in partnership with industry and the Federal Government, to develop basin-wide plans for pollution control.

These actions recognize that polluted waters are not a problem of individual cities, or counties, or States. Each water pollution problem is as broad and as long as the watersheds it affects. To win the battle against pollution, we must concentrate our effort on entire river basins.

In 1967, the Secretary of Interior will:

--Review and approve effective State water quality standards which will serve as a guide for our clean-up effort.

--Encourage effective and economical river basin plans for pollution control.

--Support work on advanced treatment methods, to allow the re-use of waste water at reasonable costs.

--Explore with the Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors appropriate measures to encourage industry and local governments to abate water pollution.



We must not only resist the spread of pollution in our environment--but we must also preserve what remains of the natural beauty and tranquility that was here long before man came. We must create new occasions for people to encounter that beauty, and to experience the re-creation of the heart that occurs in the natural universe.


In recent years, we have added considerably to our national recreational estate. Last year, I recommended, and the Congress authorized the Cape Lookout National Seashore off North Carolina, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Chicago, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior, Bighorn National Recreation Area in Wyoming and Montana, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.

But the need for more protected areas is still great. We must make significant additions to our present domain of land and water merely to keep pace with the need.

Therefore, in addition to the National Parks and Recreation Areas I have previously proposed, I recommend that the 90th Congress:

--Establish a Redwoods National Park in Northern California. We must preserve a significant acreage of these primeval redwoods as a National Park. This is a "last chance" conservation opportunity. If we do not act promptly, we may lose for all time the magnificent redwoods of Northern California.

--Establish a National Park in the North Cascades area in the State of Washington, provided that the wilderness and recreation areas are protected. This spectacular area of unparalleled mountain masses, glaciers, meadows, and timbered valleys is close to major metropolitan areas, and lies entirely within National Forests.

--Establish Potomac Valley Park in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. This park, creating green and open spaces along the reaches of the Potomac would help make the Potomac Valley a model scenic and recreation area for the Nation.

--Establish the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, to add a superb string of islands to our national seashore system.


In 1964, the Congress authorized a Wilderness System, to preserve for future generations of Americans large areas of undeveloped lands in their natural state. The enabling legislation called upon the President to make recommendations for the inclusion of certain additional areas within the System.

In accord with that law, I recommend legislation to authorize the tint addition to the Wilderness System since its establishment-an area to be known as the San Rafael Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, California. We will submit recommendations for other additions to the Wilderness System in the coming months.


l renew my recommendation--overwhelmingly approved by the Senate during the 89th Congress--to establish a National Scenic Rivers System to maintain and restore segments of selected riven in their natural state. This Scenic Rivers System will enable future generations of all Americans to know and experience this significant part of their natural heritage.

I again urge the Congress to establish a nationwide system of Trails. We should begin with authorization on the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. The system should include similar status for the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails from the Canadian border almost to Mexico, and for the Potomac Heritage Trail along that great river from Tidewater to its source. Our proposal will call for expansion of metropolitan, State, and Federal trails where our people can hike and bicycle and ride horseback--near the cities in which they increasingly live.


We are seriously hampered by rapidly rising land costs when we seek new areas for recreation. Average land prices are increasing at a rate of almost 10 percent a year. The cost of land for recreation is spiraling at a considerably higher rate. This diminishes the effectiveness of our program of State grants and Federal purchases of land for parks and recreation areas. We must act promptly to assure that we can acquire needed recreation lands before the price becomes prohibitive. The most effective means of controlling the increase in the price of land is to acquire the lands quickly after authorization by the Congress.

To speed up the acquisition of recreation lands, I recommend a $142 million appropriation to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for fiscal 1968. This is nearly a third higher than the amount appropriated in 1967. For the first time, it includes a $32 million advance appropriation from general funds to accelerate the purchase of lands for parks and other recreational purposes.



There is much to be done. And we are losing ground. The air and water grow heavier with the debris of our spectacular civilization. The domain of nature shrinks before the demands of commerce.

We can build, for a time, a rich nation surrounded and permeated by poisoned elements. By ignoring the poisons, or by treating them in a casual, piecemeal way, we can endure in their midst for decades.

But here in America, we started out to do more than simply endure. We intended to live as men should live, working hard, raising families, learning, building--and breathing dean air, swimming in clear streams, finding a part of the forest or the shore where nobody else was.

If we are to have that America, we shall have to master the consequences of our own prosperity--and the time to begin is now.


The White House

January 30, 1967

Note: For statements or remarks upon signing related legislation, see Items 284, 503, 507.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Congress: Protecting Our Natural Heritage Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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