This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the text of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Today we are in the midst of a depression -- a depression in the handling of our natural resources. This is not a depression of scarcity -- it is not caused by a lack of power or water or land. It is due to despoilment, underdevelopment and neglect -- it is due to a lack of faith and a lack of vision. And every day in which we lack leadership -- every day in which no plans are drawn or efforts made -- plunges us deeper into this depression.
To help the nation emerge from this depression is one of the greatest challenges of the sixties -- a challenge which must be met if we are to meet the needs of this generation and preserve the heritage of our future generations. For by 1975, a growing America -- with a population of 230 million -- will need twice as much water -- twice as much food -- and three times as much power -- if it is to provide for its homes, its cities, its farms and meet the demands of an expanding economy.
Some of these failures are of special importance to the people of Wisconsin -- all of them are of vital concern to the entire nation.
First is the failure in our national forests. These forests are one of our most valuable assets -- they cover a large part of Wisconsin -- they provide timber for your important construction and paper industries. Throughout the nation they are the major source of water for more than 1600 cities and towns -- they drive more than 600 hydroelectric projects -- they provide a source of recreation -- not only in Wisconsin but for millions of Americans all over the country. Yet the Administration has refused to spend more than fifty per cent of the funds which its own Secretary of Agriculture has said are essential if we are to preserve this great natural resource. Our forests are being allowed to deteriorate from misuse and lack of effort.
Second is the failure to keep our water clean. The Administration has opposed all efforts to meet the growing threat of water pollution. Today a Presidential veto hangs over the modest program of Federal aid which Congress has just passed -- a program which is essential if we are to halt the destructive and dangerous contamination of our water supply.
Third is the failure to use science and technology to find new sources of natural resources, and to develop new uses for those resources which we already have. Your own Forest Products Research Laboratory is operating at only fifty per cent of capacity -- despite the fact that a Congressional committee and the Secretary of Agriculture have both found a pressing need for increased forestry research. The Administration has refused to help this and other important research projects which repay their costs many-fold in terms of new products and new resources. There are many other failures -- failure to help our depressed mineral industry, which contributes more than $70 million a year to Wisconsin’s economy -- failure to develop our rivers -- to construct multi-purpose basin-wide projects -- and to control floods and reclaim arid and unproductive land.
These failures -- and others like them -- have been produced by policies of little vision and less action. Many of these failures have been excused in the name of economy -- and we have heard much talk about budgets and deficits. But the fact of the matter is that in the last eight years we have incurred the greatest deficit in the history of our country -- an enormous debt in wasted resources -- in unused power -- in decaying forests -- in parched and useless land -- in contaminated water and air -- and in destroyed natural beauty. This is a deficit in faith -- a deficit in vision -- and a deficit in leadership.