When our nation came into being, and there was ravaging of the land, with no thought taken for the preservation of our beautiful heritage, much irreversible damage was done. However, most Americans learned from past mistakes. In the past 50 years most of us have been making an effort to save those virgin areas that had still remained untouched.
It has naturally been very shocking to hear Secretary of the Interior Watt make remarks like, "Let us give the land back to the people."
Where has the land ever been but in the hands of our people? Isn't government only an instruments of the people? Should we allow ourselves to repeat mistakes of the past?
When the national and state park systems were first formed, their purpose was to preserve and protect for present and future generations the natural and unspoiled beauty of our nation; to preserve and protect our historical heritage; and to provide for our citizens an opportunity to enjoy natural envirous.
Since them many wild areas have been acquired on both state and national level. Today we need not drive far to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of wilderness areas. Our state and national governments have regulations and laws to protect and provide support for these areas.
Around 1953 a group of naturalists, conservationists, and scientists got together and called themselves the Nature Conservancy. They are a nonprofit organization, organized for the purpose of saving virgin and rare areas of beauty. They received many private gifts of land and money to promote their work. One gift in 1963 was an anonymous cash grant of $100,000. This money has been used to lend to conservationist groups wishing to buy land, and thus allow them time for fund-raising drives. The loans of course would be repaid with interest. This has saved many of our valuable beauty sports from being taken over by developers.
Trees are one of man's most precious natural assets. Even if we figure only in economics, they provide us with timber, turpentine, resins, fuel, cellulose, chemicals, paper, and hundreds of other products derived from wood. We should use these resources, but we should always replace each tree that we take.
Trees prevent erosion and the wearing away of the soil by drought, floods and wind. They add nutrients that enrich the soil, they are windbreaks, they add shelter and moisture and influence or climate. Without forests our land would become a desert. It is through the wisdom and vision of a few great men that we have been able to hold on to the few forests that we have now.
Beyond their economic value, woods have a dimension that is for more outreaching. The majesty of the forests and their quiet beauty are food for the mind and spirit.
As one enters into the heart of the wilderness, the turbulence of the world remains outside. Time stands still, and one's mind returns to its source and wisdens -- as a river widens as it returns to the sea. It frees itself of worldly pressures and materialistic ambitions.
In this tranquil sanctuary, one can find inspiration and freedom to take steps into the future and gain strength to resist the man-made fetters and disturbances in a changing world. One finds confidence and faith that stabilize all growth and help each one of us to live and work in peace with all men, and with every living thing on earth.
What should be our priority? Should we continue to preserve -- or to destroy? The choice is ours.