To learn that more than four thousand native plant species are in danger of extinction in this country gives us a wake-up call and brings close to home the Wildflower Center's mission. Will these plants be lost to all but memory, with succeeding generations losing even that fragile connection? Are there sources of food, fiber or medicine that might perish with them? How do we save these species in the face of an ever-expanding human population and its impact on the land?
As daunting as the prospects may seem as we search for ways to protect and make room for nature, we must remember that there are success stories in all of this. Although we may not be able to save every single species, we can each do our part to protect them. Some of the answers lie as close as our own backyards, and as far as the highways that transverse this nation to its outermost reaches.
-- Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson
"Today, perhaps most people think of Lady Bird Johnson as the reason why we see wildflowers blooming along the nation’s highways and fewer junkyards and billboards. The Beautification Act of 1965 was one tangible result of Mrs. Johnson’s campaign for national beautification. Known as “Lady Bird’s Bill” because of her active support, the legislation called for control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs along the nation's Interstate system and the existing federal-aid primary system. It also required certain junkyards along Interstate or primary highways to be removed or screened and encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development.
"The term beautification concerned Mrs. Johnson, who feared it was 'cosmetic' and 'trivial.' She emphasized that it meant much more—'clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas.'
"Mrs. Johnson made it her mission to call attention to the natural beauty of the nation."
Lewis L. Gould, University of Texas professor and author of Lady Bird Johnson and the Environmental Movement, wrote in his preface: “If a man in the 1960s had been involved with an environmental movement such as highway beautification, had changed the appearance of a major American city, had addressed the problems of black inner-city youth and had campaigned tirelessly to enhance national concern about natural beauty, no doubts would be raised that he was worthy of biographical and scholarly scrutiny. Lady Bird Johnson’s accomplishments as a catalyst for environmental ideas during the 1960s and thereafter entitle her to an evaluation of what she tried to do and what she achieved.”
More here and here and a quite remarkable anecdote here. update: See also Bill Moyers' eulogy.