This is a transcript of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A single copy of the speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.


Of the many critical domestic problems which will face this nation in the sixties, few are as important to the people of Wisconsin as the conservation and development of our natural resources. Large and productive forests cover one-half of your state. Your trees, your rivers, your lakes, and your soil are Wisconsin's most important single asset.

It is this great natural abundance that has made Wisconsin one of the nation's great farm and dairy states - the center of America's paper industry - a land of unparalleled opportunities for recreation, and the development of an important tourist industry. From all over the country Americans come to Wisconsin for rest - for hunting - for fishing - and for recreation on your many rivers and lakes. And in so doing they have made the tourist business your third most important industry and contributed millions of dollars to your growing economy.

"The conservation of our natural resources, and their proper use," said President Theodore Roosevelt, "constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life." And this problem is not merely Wisconsin's problem - it is not even the problem of the Middlewest and West - it is the nation's problem. This was clearly understood by those two great Easterners - Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt - who saw in the great untapped abundance of our natural resources the true source of American greatness.

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 great 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 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.

We will also need - for this future America - millions more acres of land for wildlife and recreation. We will need increased efforts to stop the devastating floods, which cause over $1 billion worth of damage each year and take an incalculable toll in human life and human welfare.

We will need vigorous action to halt a destructive and dangerous contamination of our water - contamination which has already closed the beaches at Milwaukee and which now threatens many of your beautiful lakes and rivers.

We will need increased research and development - to find new methods of conserving and using our great national forests - an effort which the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison has pioneered - as well as to find new methods of exploiting our vast mineral resources - and of developing sources of water in the sea.

In the face of this growing need - this vital challenge - the last eight years have seen a record of timidity and failure - a record which the next administration - a Democratic administration - must reverse.

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 the 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.

The elimination of this deficit is one of the great challenges of the sixties. To meet this challenge we must be strong - we must summon all our resources - both the resources of mind and spirit - and the resources which lie beneath the earth and in our mountains, and in our great rivers - those resources on which we have built a great nation - those resources on which our continued greatness depends.