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Legislation on Conservation/Environment 1965-68

1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968

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."


Clean Air Act provided an expanded and strengthened national program to control and prevent air pollution.


Pesticide Controls strengthened the federal law controlling pesticides. This law made three major changes in the 1947 Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act: (a) a pesticide was forbidden to be sold in interstate commerce unless its label was approved and registered with the Agriculture Department; (b) instead of having to go to court to take an unsafe product off the market, the Agriculture Secretary could suspend marketing and set up expedited hearing procedures immediately; (c) the Department of Agriculture registration number was allowed to appear on the label (previously this was denied because the Department did not want to appear to endorse a product).

Campobello International Park, a 10 acre plot on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada. The legislation provided for the creation of a six-member international commission to accept as a gift from the current owners the summer home of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Water Resources Research Act was designed to foster research on water problems in order to make the most of existing water resources and thereby avoid or ease anticipated shortages in many sections of the country within the next 40 years.

Ozark Scenic Riverway in Missouri was created when legislation authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire up to 65,000 acres of privately owned land. It was expected that the state of Missouri would donate additional land and some lands administered by the National Forest Service would be included. It was similar to a national park, although called "Riverways."

Fort Bowie Historic Site, a 1,000 acre park located in Arizona.

Wilderness Act, designed to preserve substantial land areas of the nation in a wild, unspoiled condition.

Canyonlands National Park was the first completely new park system unit bearing the name "national park" to be created since 1956. Located along the junction of the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah, mining claims, mineral leases, and continuation of grazing on lands in the new park were allowed for at least 25 years.

Fire Island National Seashore, the nation's fifth national seashore, was to have 25 miles of shore fronting on the Atlantic Ocean and 25 miles fronting on a bay facing Long Island. Homeowners in the area were permitted to retain them for residential, non-commercial use for 25 years.


President Johnson's message of February 8, 1965, marked the first time a President had declared enhancement of natural beauty a national goal.

Federal Water Project Recreation Act, established a uniform federal-local cost-sharing formula for recreation facilities and fish and wildlife enhancement features at federal water projects. This was the first time a uniform formula had been established.

Land and Water Conservation Fund Act established for the first time a national system for financing accelerated federal and state acquisition of needed outdoor recreation areas while they were still available and affordable. Monies allocated to the federal agencies were to be used solely for acquisition of new land, but states were permitted to use their portion for development of existing lands as well.

Solid Waste Disposal Act specified that a national research and development program for new and improved methods of solid waste disposal would be established. It also provided technical and financial aid to state and local governments in developing, establishing and conducting solid waste disposal programs.

Water Quality Act significantly strengthened the federal water pollution law. It was called a major new weapon to combat water pollution.

Water Resources Planning Act provided for federal and regional coordination of plans for water resource development.

Highway Beautification Act authorized a new program for beautifying the nation's federal-aid highways through removal of junkyards and landscaping of areas adjacent to the highways.

Delaware Water Gap (Tocks Island) Recreation Area a new recreational area located in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, was the first authorized east of the Mississippi.

Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in the drainage area of the south branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia.

Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area in northern California to consist of three units surrounding reclamation reservoirs at the northern end of California's Central Valley, 200 miles north of San Francisco.

Assateague Island National Seashore consisting of the 35-mile-long Assateague Island and surrounding waters off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia.

Ellis Island the former immigration center in New York harbor, was made a part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. The President was authorized under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to set aside federal lands of national monuments by proclamation. In this proclamation, President Johnson asked Congress to authorize funds for development of the island. Congress authorized $6 million for development of facilities on the island.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, a 200-acre area in West Branch, Iowa containing the cottage in which President Hoover was born, his grave and the Herbert Hoover Library.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, 3,150 acres in Sioux County, Nebraska to preserve the fossils of animals which lived 15 million years ago.

Nez Perce National Historical Park in the Idaho panhandle to commemorate historical events connected with the Nez Perce Indians.

Pecos National Monument, a new national monument in New Mexico.

Alibates Flint Quarries and Texas Panhandle Pueblo Culture National Monument

Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah commemorating completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Arizona.


In May, President Johnson created the President's Council on Recreation and Natural Beauty and the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty. The Council was to review and make recommendations to the President on outdoor recreation and natural beauty programs of the federal government. The Citizens' Committee was to advise the President and the Council on the correlation of federal natural beauty and recreation programs with local, state and private outdoor recreation and natural beauty activities.

Marine Resources and Engineering Development Act updated and accelerated the U.S. oceanography program while improving the coordination of existing federal oceanography activities.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Protection Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to take special actions to protect some 35 species of mammals and 30-40 species of birds which conservationists believed would otherwise become extinct. Among the animals and birds considered were the whooping crane, trumpeter swan, prairie chicken, California condor, Kenai moose, Kodiak bear, Key deer, fur seal and American bison.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 13 miles of Lake Michigan shorefront.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a 77,582-acre park in western Texas containing extensive and significant fossil reefs.

Cape Lookout National Seashore, a 30,000-acre national seashore of which 10,000 acres would stretch along 58 miles of North Carolina coast.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, 63,300 acres along the Bighorn River in south central Montana and north central Wyoming at the end of Bighorn Canyon, a 47-mile gorge with walls rising from 800 to 2,200 feet above the Bighorn River.

Historic Preservation Act legislation designed to encourage preservation of historic sites at the state and local levels and to augment the financing of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along 39 miles of the south shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wolf Trap Farm Park, a cultural center and recreation area of 96 acres at Wolf Trap Farm in Fairfax County, Virginia. It is 13 miles from Washington, D.C., and was the first federal park to be devoted primarily to the performing arts.

Point Reyes National Seashore in California. Additional monies were appropriated to cover payments to owners of land to whom the Interior Department had already made commitments to purchase land.

Piscataway Park in Maryland, was designed to preserve the shoreline opposite Mount Vernon. Additional monies were appropriated because initial authorizations in 1961 proved to be insufficient.

Clean Water Restoration Act provided substantial amounts of money to help communities pay the costs of abiding by the standards established in the 1965 Water Quality Act. Financial incentives urged states to establish purity standards on intrastate waters.

Endangered Species Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to take special actions to protect species of fish and wildlife threatened with extinction.


 National Park Foundation
National Park Foundation
established by Congress to accept donations of money, securities and real estate from the public to support the programs of the National Park Service.

Public Land Law extended the life of the Public Land Law Review Commission. The purpose of the review was to provide guidelines to help Congress overhaul outmoded laws and unsnarl the often conflicting regulations governing use and sale of federal lands. The Commission was to have gone out of existence June 30, 1969.

Wetlands Preservation extended for eight years (through fiscal 1976) the period during which Congress could make advance appropriations for acquisition of wetlands for migratory bird conservation.

Air Quality Act greatly strengthened the powers of local, state, and federal authorities to combat polluted air and its sources.

Kennedy Birthplace established the birthplace of President Kennedy in Brookline, Massachusetts as a National Historic Site.


Land and Water Conservation Fund provided additional revenue for the Fund established by Congress in 1964. It was intended to finance acquisition of parks and recreation areas.

Redwood National Park in northern California included 27,500 acres of three state parks and approximately 28,000 acres of privately owned land, much of which was owned by lumber companies. The area contains redwood trees up to 2,200 years old, including the two tallest trees in the world.

North Cascades National Park in northern Washington along the Canadian Border. In the same region, the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area were set up separately to permit continuation of hunting since no hunting is permitted in national parks.

National Trails System established a nationwide system of trails in three categories: national scenic trails, national recreation trails, and connecting or side trails.

National Wild and Scenic Rivers System established to preserve outstanding stretches of rivers from incompatible water resource development, pollution or commercialization. Three classifications were established: wild river areas (primitive and accessible only by trail), scenic river areas (primitive but accessible in places by road), recreational river areas (some development and readily accessible by car).

Flaming Gorge Recreation Area in Utah and Wyoming. It contains a number of dry, rugged buttes noted for scenic value.

National Wilderness Preservation System was increased by more than 800,000 acres and were the first additions to the system since it was authorized in 1964. The system was set up to protect 9.1 million acres of federally owned lands in the National Forest System which had not been commercially exploited and were still in a wild state.

Carl Sandburg Home near Flat Rock, North Carolina established the 242-acre farm of poet Carl Sandburg as a National Historic Site.

Biscayne National Monument in Florida for the preservation of wildlife in the area.

San Rafael Wilderness designated the San Rafael Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest, California as a wilderness area. Located 10 miles north of Santa Barbara and within access of 6 million people, the area was part of a national forest and was already owned by the federal government.

San Gabriel Wilderness was another national forest designated as a wilderness area. It is located 35 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Padre Island National Seashore land was authorized for acquisition in 1962. Additional appropriations were made in 1968 to complete that acquisition. Difficult negotiations and lengthy condemnation proceedings caused the five-year delay in acquiring the land involved. Within that time the total cost of the land increased from $5 million to more than $16 million.

Hazardous Radiation Protection authorized the Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary to set performance standards to control the level of radiation emission from electronic products when the Secretary believed such standards were necessary for the protection of the public's health and safety.

Colorado River Bill, its passage marked the end of a dispute that had raged in the West for 50 years. The bill authorized construction of the huge Central Arizona water diversion project and of various other water development projects that would draw on the Colorado River. Construction of these projects would mean that practically all of the river's annual flow would be divided up among the seven states of the Colorado River Basin.

National Water Commission was established to make a nonfederal comprehensive study of water resources problems. Its mission was to examine major water problems and develop recommendations, guidelines, and long-range plans for effective use of available water resources.

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