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Land was the beginning of the story of America, and land remains the foundation of our future.
When this land of ours was wilderness and the population sparse, the challenge was to conquer nature. The quality and vastness of the land whetted our ingenuity and our aspirations. Resources seemed limitless, potential for development infinite.
But that was another time. Our land and resources are not without end, and our demands upon them are greater than ever before. The challenge now is to manage the land with care for the future.
Significantly, President Nixon devoted nearly half of his 1971 Message to Congress on the En
vironment to specific discussions of how to make better use of our lands—public and private.
"The use of our land," he said, "not only affects the natural environment but shapes the pattern of our daily lives. Unfortunately, the sensible use of our land is often thwarted by the inability of the many competing and overlapping local units of government to control land-use decisions which have regional significance."
Rather than attempt to diminish the strong American tradition of local government, the President proposed legislation to establish a National Land-Use Policy which would encourage the States to work with local authorities in de veloping more rational patterns of land planning and use.
Of all the steps that can be taken to maintain a balanced environment as we continue to develop resources, I believe none is more necessary than a national approach to land use in development planning.
What one State does to a river may not matter to that State, but its actions may be of great concern for the States downstream.
What one community plans in the way of an industrial park may mean a grave intrusion upon the environment of an adjacent community.
What one private developer plans in the way of construction for a fragile coastal area may affect land, sea and life in the whole region.
We must learn to help our com
munities develop in harmony with their environment, rather than mangling the environment in the process of developing communities. This is the heart of sound land management, whether it be the management of public lands, which comprise about one-third of this Nation's territory, or whether it be the management of privately owned acreage.
We can, with planning, help free our communities of industrial sprawl, erosion, air and highway traffic jams, and the kinds of construction that foster pollution. We can bring more parks to places where people live—to urban areas where the natural environment has been overshadowed by concrete towers and where outdoor recreation space has been gobbled up haphazardly for shortterm gain at the expense of environmental balance and the long range interest of all. We can protect the quality of life in the neighborhoods of America by planning new construction with care. We can preserve the fragile areas of our land by monitoring and regulating the activity permitted upon them.
Primary responsibility and authority for land-use planning and management of non-federal lands rests with State and local governments, to be sure. But a national responsibility does exist to protect the total environment of our land, and this can only be accomplished by maintaining a consistent land-use ethic from coast to coast.
With a national land-use policy, formulated so that the property holder can still realize a reasonable return on his investment, we can keep development within the bounds of a general morality—a morality based on appreciation for
1-27/ the natural resources and a re- peoples everywhere to join us in spect for the quality of human life. this great endeavor. Together, we
Conservation in this sense can hold this good earth in trust. neither begins nor ends with gov- We must—and together we canernment, although governments prove ourselves worthy of that at all levels must continually strive
trust." to give environmental considera- As far back as the turn of this tions the highest priority. It is a century, Gifford Pinchot and Theoresponsibility inherent in our daily dore Roosevelt spoke of planning activities within our commerce in the development of resources and industry, within our commu- and the right of the people to nities and neighborhoods, and have their stake in a living land even within the family circle, right protected. down to the individual citizen It is to these ends that the whose litter is multiplied by 206 Department of the Interior will million daily.
direct its missions. Its responsiInterest in the total environ- bilities include management of ment should be on a level with public lands, development of pubeconomic interests or social inter- lic resources, preservation of wildests, because it is the product of life and, in sum, protection of the interrelationship of both. It the well-being of people, through cannot be given a secondary place protection of the land base upon in our planning, either national or which they depend. personal planning.
The President's 1971 Enivronmental Message to Congress ended with a plea for better, more informed citizen participation in all environmental matters. He noted that our educational system, at all levels, has a critical role to play. And he added:
"As our nation comes to grips with our environmental problems, we will find that difficult choices have to be made, that substantial costs have to be met, and that sacrifices have to be made. Environmental quality cannot be achieved cheaply or easily. But I believe the American people are ready to do what is necessary.
"This nation has met great challenges before. I believe we shall meet this challenge. I call upon all Americans to dedicate themselves during the decade of
Rogers C. B. Morton the seventies to the goal of re
Secretary of the Interior storing the environment and reclaiming the earth for ourselves and our posterity. And I invite all