Lady Bird Conservation Pioneer

She Listened to the Land

07-11-2007 // NWF Media Team

Influential First Lady was Conservation Pioneer

Statement by Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation President,
on death of Lady Bird Johnson

RESTON, VA -- Lady Bird Johnson quietly made America more beautiful for all of us. The former first lady was a national advocate and spokesperson for conservation and natural beauty, instilling in others a desire to protect the wild for future generations. She was one of the greatest voices for American conservation of her generation and her commitment to protecting our natural resources inspired our nation to strengthen its conservation ethic. Her touch remains visible today.

Lady Bird's mother instilled in her a deep appreciation and love for nature at a young age which she carried into adulthood and into the White House when she became first lady. Her beautification initiative was developed to 'create a total concern for the physical and human quality of the world we pass on to our children.' In 1965 she formed the Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, beautifying the grounds around Washington D.C. monuments, making them more attractive and healthier for the environment. Each year when Washington's spring flowers are in full bloom, I am reminded of Lady Bird's determination and her desire to touch everyone with nature's beauty.

Encouraged and motivated by Lady Bird's passion, the Johnson administration was very active in conservation and won major legislative victories, including the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. President Gerald Ford recognized her conservation efforts with a Medal of Freedom in 1977.

One of Lady Bird's greatest gifts to the country was the National Wildlife Research Center in Austin, Texas, for which she donated a parcel of land and $125,000 in celebration of her 70th birthday. Many of Mrs. Johnson's friends donated funds and the Center's initial endowment grew quickly to $700,000. The Center serves as an important clearing house for information about wildflowers and native plants. Lady Bird understood the importance of native plants for sustaining healthy ecosystems and nurturing local wildlife. In 1997, the Center's board renamed it Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with a mission to 'educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants.'

In 1965 and again in 2004, Lady Bird was named Conservationist of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation, a testament to her lifelong dedication to preserving the natural beauty of our country. Lady Bird said that the land spoke to her in its own language, and its own regional accent. As a conservation pioneer and a resounding voice for the conservation movement, Lady Bird Johnson's legacy will be teaching each of us to listen closely to the land.

Statement by Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation President on death of Lady Bird Johnson

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