Office of the Press Secretary
(Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts)

For Immediate Release August 21, 1999




Nantucket, Massachusetts

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Like many Americans, Hillary and I are fortunate to be spending part of our summer vacation enjoying the splendors of nature, strolling clean, beautiful beaches, breathing the fresh ocean air, watching the stunning sunset -- reminding us that we must do everything we can to preserve this glorious land of ours for generations yet to come.

President Theodore Roosevelt once committed our nation to leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us. Vice President Gore and I have tried hard to fulfill his vision. We protected the Yellowstone Park from the threat of mining, preserved the Red Rock Canyons of Utah, saved age-old redwoods in California's Headwaters Forest. We launched the most ambitious restoration effort ever in the magnificent Florida Everglades. And we're acting to restore healthy air and pristine skies to our national parks so that future generations can see and enjoy them, just as the first explorers did.

Last year, at my request, Congress approved new funding to protect other precious lands. Today I'm pleased to announce our latest efforts. We've just reach a landmark agreement to protect more than 9,000 acres of critical land next to Yellowstone, another milestone in our effort to preserve the matchless wonders of America's first national park.

Permanently protecting these lands will help to ensure the survival of the bison and other herds that roam the wilds of Yellowstone, and by removing a threat to the underground springs that feed Yellowstone's geysers we'll ensure that Old Faithful remains faithful for years to come. A hundred years from now, families still will be able to experience the magnificent glory of Yellowstone.

We're also protecting several other natural and historic sites across our country, from ancient ruins in Bandelier National Monument to the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., to California's spectacular Big Sur coast. We can all be proud of these latest additions or our nation's endowment.

Yet, with more Americans visiting our national parks and forests than ever before, we must do more. Every child deserves a chance to hike in an old-growth forest or wade in a clear, cool stream. And our land is more than a haven for wildlife or a vacation spot; it embodies our very history and our culture. In too many places, vital pieces of this heritage are disappearing. Once lost, they can't be replaced.

That is why I proposed an historic Lands Legacy Initiative to open the new century with an unprecedented commitment to preserving our most precious lands for all time. First, as part of our balanced budget for the coming year, I proposed a record $1 billion to protect natural treasures and provide new resources to states and communities to preserve farms, urban parks, wetlands, coastlands and working forests. Second, I asked for permanent funding of at least a billion dollars a year to continue these efforts through the coming century.

My priorities for the new year include new protections for Civil War battlefields, the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Cape Cod national seashore, and the Pelican Island refuge in Florida -- America's first wildlife refuge.

But these priorities are at risk because Congress has approved only a fraction of my request. And while we're taking action to protect our environment and the public health, the Republican leadership's risky tax plan would actually roll back our progress. It would cut funding to our national parks, even threaten to shut some of them down.

Now, throughout this century the stewardship of our lands has not been a partisan issue, it's been a bipartisan cause. In that spirit, I urge Congress to approve my full request for the coming year for the Lands Legacy Initiative, to work with me to create a permanent fund to preserving our lands.

We're indebted to those who safeguarded our national treasures so that we might enjoy them today, and we owe that same debt to the future. It is our sacred obligation to leave this land a better land for our children and for generations yet to come. Theodore Roosevelt was right, and it's time we all heeded him.

Thanks for listening.

Click here for more information on preserving America's lands legacy.

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