JUNE 6, 1959
NEW YORK—The Citizens Committee on Natural Resources has drawn my attention to what is known as the Wilderness Bill, which is again awaiting action in the Senate Coimmittee on Interior and Insular Affairs.
Conservationists all favor this bill, but it is being fought, quite naturally, by certain special interests in the forest industries and among the grazers and miners.
We are reaching the point in our country where we have to think very seriously about the preservation of natural resources. If we do not preserve our forests, we will lose our water. We must all be familiar with what has happened in countries like China in the Far East and Iran and other countries in the Near East, where the hills are completely denuded of trees and the topsoil is washed away so that the land below has become desert and the mountains are stark rocks.
We should be preserving wilderness areas throughout our country for recreation as well as for the preservation of our land. The Wilderness Bill will link together the national park system with the wilderness system in certain areas. It also will create wildlife refuges and national game ranges.
It is important to accomplish through this bill the goal that the policy of Congress would be to back wilderness preservation, thus making it impossible for a bureau chief or Cabinet officer to abolish a wilderness area, reduce it in size, or add to it merely by affixing his signature to an executive order.
The bill would provide for what is most important in the education of our people. It would give them a voice in saying what shall be done with the wilderness areas. They could exercise this right in two ways: by appearing at public hearings and by letting their representatives in Congress know what their feelings are on the subject of the preservation of wilderness areas throughout our country.
Of course, this would require that our people become educated to the value of these areas. And I hope that no one will overlook the need for preserving such areas. If we fail to protect our wilderness, it is inevitable that our country in the future would become the same type of desert that now has to be reclaimed in so many areas of the Far East and Near East.
I met an interesting young woman from the Philippines yesterday, Mrs. Remedios L. Fernandez. She comes from Cebu, where she teaches law in the university, is editor of a newspaper, and writes a daily column.
She has been spending a few weeks in our country as a guest of the State Department, and she was very anxious to convince me that certain measures being taken in the Philippines are anti-Communist and not anti-American, as the Chinese Communists are trying to make out.
On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Gwen Verdon, a lady of extraordinary charm and confidence, perform in a musical comedy called "Redhead." Miss Verdon has a great following and I think she is entitled to it. In this performance she is well supported by Richard Kiley, and I found the show pleasant but quite uninteresting as theatre.
As an outlet for the gifts of these two people, however, the musical comedy is quite perfect and perhaps one should not ask anything more than that in a light evening of entertainment.