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On May 25-26, 1965, panels of conservationists, industrialists, government officials and private citizens met at President Johnson's request. The Conference was chaired by Laurance S. Rockefeller and discussed topics the President proposed for discussion:

  • a solution to the problems of automobile junkyards;
  • the possibility of underground installation of utility transmission lines;
  • policies of taxation which would not penalize or discourage conservation and the preservation of beauty;
  • areas in which the Federal Government could help communities
  • develop their own programs of natural beauty;
  • the possibility of a tree-planting program.
The White House Conference on Natural Beauty endorsed the concepts contained in the Highway Beautification Act which President Johnson signed on October 22, 1965.


President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act on October 22, 1965.


Oral History Interview (Excerpt)

Date:   December 16, 1969
Interviewee:   Stewart Udall
Interviewer:   Joe B. Frantz
Place:   Washington, D.C. office of former Secretary Stewart Udall


President Johnson cared deeply about conservation and the environment and believed they were an important part of his dream of a "Great Society" for our country. He asked Congress to pass environmental legislation covering many areas of concern, including air and water pollution; the urban environment; waste disposal; the use of natural resources; and the preservation of wildlife, wilderness areas, natural beauty, and historical resources. While in office, President Johnson signed almost three hundred conservation and beautification measures. Lady Bird Johnson, as First Lady, made the public aware of environmental issues in the 1960s by promoting "beautification" for the nation's cities and countryside. She encouraged the President to propose the landmark Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which helped to preserve the natural beauty of this country.

During the 1960s, the nation's views on conservation changed and grew. Originally, conservationists focused on preservation of the land, and they devoted their efforts to creation of national parks and forests to protect and preserve them. As the public became more concerned about pollution, conservation efforts expanded to include measures to protect our total environment, such as air and water pollution control, waste disposal, and improving the environment of our cities. This change led to increased public debate and controversy about the proper balance between protecting the environment and the needs and rights of private industry and landowners. This tension continues today. President Johnson reflected this new view of conservation and the importance of our environment in his Special Message to the Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty on February 8, 1965. In his message, President Johnson encouraged Congress to pass far-reaching legislation to protect and extend the natural beauty of America. He said, "Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man's welfare but the dignity of man's spirit."

Timeline of Legislation on Conservation/Environment.

excerpt from --Showcase for the Nation-- MP 472
Running Time: 02:35

Impact of Mrs. Johnson's beautification on Washington, D.C. and the nation. LBJ speaks about her impact. 1968

VTR 5240
Running Time: 03:18

Lady Bird Johnson talks about being First Lady. Others talk of her impact on the environment.

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