Message to the Congress Transmitting the Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality

July 11, 1984

To the Congress of the United States:

I am pleased to transmit to the Congress the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality.

I have long believed that our Nation has a God-given responsibility to preserve and protect our natural resource heritage. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only to the extent that we act as thoughtful stewards of our abundant natural resources.

As this report describes in detail, we are continuing to make demonstrable progress protecting and improving the quality of the Nation's air, land, and water resources. By almost any measure the air is cleaner now than it was when the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970. Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the volume of industrial pollutants released into lakes, rivers, and estuaries has declined sharply. In spite of economic and population growth over the past decade, water quality has remained the same or improved in virtually all United States rivers.

Our Nation is justifiably proud of this record. Since 1970, we have passed comprehensive environmental legislation that is a model for the rest of the world. We have shown people everywhere that we have the environmental awareness, the political will, and the technical understanding necessary to resolve the resource use conflicts that arise inevitably in a populous, highly industrialized nation.

But our past success should not blind us to the fact that in the future we will face even more complex questions regarding the use of our natural resources. Chemicals, both old and new, will continue to be invaluable aids in our economic development, but the benefits they bestow on all of us will have to be balanced against any possible adverse health effects caused by exposure to such chemicals. Population growth, economic expansion, and the development of new kinds of industries will intensify the competing demands on our natural resources.

In the future, we will improve our stewardship of the Nation's wealth of natural resources if we apply well the lessons of the past. We have learned that scientific understanding is essential to any successful regulatory program, but that when scientists are unsure, politicians should act with caution. We have learned that regulatory actions can be effective when they are clearly defined and strongly enforced, but that without careful attention to relative benefits and costs, they can waste one resource while preserving another. Most important of all, we have learned that the Federal government has played an important role in protecting and preserving natural resources, but that it has not acted and should not act alone. In the past, State and local governments, businesses, and private citizens all have made important contributions to environmental research, land preservation, habitat protection, and enhancement of environmental quality. If we are to continue the progress we have seen in the past, the partnership between government, businesses, and private citizens must be expanded in the future.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

July 11, 1984.

Note: The 341-page report is entitled ``Environmental Quality 1983 -- 14th Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality.''