Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Special Message to the Congress on the Nation's Natural Resources.

July 31, 1953

To the Congress of the United States:

In the stress of dealing with urgent problems of peace and security and budget appropriations and tax revenues, we sometimes overlook the fundamental importance to our national well-being of constructive, forward-looking policies designed to conserve and improve the Nation's natural renewable resources.

Before the Congress adjourns, therefore, I believe it will be useful to focus attention on some of our basic land and water resource problems and to point the way for constructive efforts to improve the management and use of these resources.

In my State of the Union Message, I called attention to the vast importance to this Nation now and in the future of our soil and water, our forests and minerals, and our wildlife resources. I indicated the need for a strong Federal program in the field of resource development. At the same time I pointed to the necessity for a cooperative partnership of the States and local communities, private citizens, and the Federal Government in carrying out a sound natural resources program.

In addition to the immediate danger of waste resulting from inadequate conservation measures, we must bear in mind the needs of a growing population and an expanding economy. At present we are faced with excess reserves of some agricultural commodities and the need for production adjustments to gear our agricultural economy to current demands. But in the long-run, we shall need to give increased attention to the improvement and reclamation of land in its broadest aspects, including soil productivity, irrigation, drainage, and the replenishing of ground water reserves, if we are adequately to feed and clothe our people, to provide gainful employment, and to continue to improve our standard of living.

Our basic problem is to carry forward the tradition of conservation, improvement, and wise use and development of our land and water resources--a policy initiated 50 years ago under the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt. To do this within the framework of a sound fiscal policy and in the light of defense needs will require the maximum cooperation among the States and local communities, farmers, businessmen and other private citizens, and the Federal Government. It will require the development of clear guidelines to be established by the Congress as to the proper functions of the Federal Government. It will require the revitalization of renewable resources by users who should be entitled to reasonable assurances in connection with authorized uses. It will require adherence to sound principles for the financing and the sharing of the cost of multiple-purpose land and water resource development. It will require improved Federal organization to accomplish a more logical division of responsibilities among the various Federal agencies in order that resource development programs may be carried on with the greatest efficiency and the least duplication. And it will require comprehensive river basin planning with the cooperation of State and local interests.

This administration is moving ahead in the formulation of sound organization and improved policies for the use of our soil, our public lands, and our water resources. I have requested, and the Congress has granted through Reorganization Plan No. 2, increased authority for the Secretary of Agriculture to improve the organization of the Department of Agriculture. I have recently established by Executive Order a National Agricultural Advisory Commission. A review is being made of the basic power policies of the Federal Government in connection with multiple-purpose river basin development as it relates to private economic development. The Corps of Engineers is making a study of the basis for State and local financial participation in local flood protection works. There are under detailed study various proposals for dealing with the complicated problems of overlapping and duplicative authority among the several resource development agencies. And the Bureau of the Budget and the resource agencies are reviewing the present standards and procedures for evaluation and cost allocation of water resource development projects.

It is fortunate that today there is a growing recognition on the part of land users and the public generally of the need to strengthen conservation in our upstream watersheds and to minimize flood damage. Inadequate conservation measures and unsound land use patterns vastly increase the danger of loss of valuable topsoil from wind erosion in time of subnormal rainfall and from water erosion in time of floods.

This should be done as an integral part of our total flood control and water use program. In our past efforts to better utilize our water resources, to control floods and to prevent loss of life and property, we have made large investments on the major waterways of the Nation. Yet we have tended to neglect the serious waste involved in the loss of topsoil from the Nation's farms and the clogging of our streams and channels which results from erosion on the upper reaches of the small streams and tributaries of the Nation's rivers.

It is important, too, for groups of farmers banded together in local organizations, such as soil conservation districts and watershed associations, to take the initiative, with the technical advice and guidance of the appropriate federal and state agencies in developing adequate plans for proper land use and resource improvement in watersheds throughout the Nation. As these plans are prepared and local agreement and cooperation are assured, I believe that we should move ahead in the construction of works of improvement and the installation of land treatment measures as rapidly as possible consistent with a sound overall fiscal program.

As we move forward in a cooperative and coordinated soil and water conservation program, we must not overlook the essential role played by the Federal Government in the management of public lands. Approximately 50 per cent of the land area of the Western States is owned and managed by a number of Federal agencies. The National Park Service administers parks and monuments having national significance. The Forest Service administers the national forests, with their valuable timber lands and grazing resources, and in cooperation with State and local interests protects critical watersheds. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers manage lands in connection with water resource projects built by these agencies. Fish and wildlife are protected by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Bureau of Indian Affairs administers Indian lands, and the great public domain remaining is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Federal Government has a responsibility to manage wisely those public lands and forests under its jurisdiction necessary in the interest of the public as a whole. Important values exist in these lands for forest and mineral products, grazing, fish and wildlife, and for recreation. Moreover, it is imperative to the welfare of thousands of communities and millions of acres of irrigated land that such lands be managed to protect the water supply and water quality which come from them. In the utilization of these lands, the people are entitled to expect that their timber, minerals, streams and water supply, wildlife and recreational values should be safeguarded, improved and made available not only for this but for future generations. At the same time, public lands should be made available for their best use under conditions that promote stability for communities and individuals and encourage full development of the resources involved.

While, as I have indicated, our major problem is to carry forward a tradition of improvement and conservation of our natural resources, the best means of achieving this objective depends on keeping up with changing conditions. For example, the problems of water resource development in the West are undergoing considerable change. The pattern of Western growth has broadened substantially in recent years. Industrial expansion has been extensive and varied. Increased activities in mineral and fuel processing have occurred. Urban expansion has been well above the national average in many communities. These developments have brought about strong competition for existing water supplies and have stimulated the need for a broader approach in planning new water resource developments. As a consequence, the Federal role in the cooperative development of these resources should now be re-examined in the interest of achieving a better balanced program for Western growth.

Conserving and improving our land and water resources is high priority business for all of us. It is the purpose of this Administration to present to the next session of the Congress suitable recommendations for achieving the objectives set forth in this Message. I am confident that the studies of governmental organization and functions authorized by this Congress can also make an important contribution to the solution of these problems. As the Congress moves ahead on a constructive legislative program in the resource field, it will have my full support and cooperation. We must build a balanced program for the use and development of all our natural resources. Such a program is indispensable to maintaining and improving our standard of living as we make the future secure for a growing America.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Special Message to the Congress on the Nation's Natural Resources. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231851

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives