In 1970, many of America's rivers and lakes were dying. Our city skylines were disappearing behind a shroud of smog. Toxic waste threatened countless communities. And our cherished national symbol the bald eagle seemed destined for extinction. A handful of citizens decided it was time to fight back. They called the very first Earth Day, and millions across America turned out. The battle for our environment had begun.
Thirty years later, the first Earth Day of a new millennium will dawn on a nation transformed. Twice as many of our rivers and lakes are now safe for fishing and swimming. Millions more Americans enjoy clean air and safe drinking water. Many of our worst toxic dumps have been cleaned up. Nearly 100 million more acres are permanently protected as wilderness. And the bald eagle thrives once again.
Under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, America is doing more than ever to ensure a safe, healthy environment for our families, and for future generations. Over the past seven years, the Clinton-Gore Administration has built an unparalleled record of environmental and public health protection. The Administration has:
Above all, this Administration has worked hard to forge sensible new approaches to environmental stewardship. Beginning with the successful effort to break the long stalemate over the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the Administration has promoted collaboration over conflict helping to make our environment a common ground, not a battleground. In its use of market-based strategies like emissions trading, the Administration has sought to achieve the greatest environmental protection at the least possible cost. And in its innovative approaches to endangered species protection and land conservation, the Administration has forged new partnerships with farmers, other landowners, and city, county and state governments.
At the same time, the President and Vice President have vigorously defended America's hard-won environmental gains against repeated assaults in Congress. In 1995, the new majority in Congress tried to repeal key provisions of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, and enact sweeping legislation that would have gutted an entire generation of public health protections. In 1996, it was only after two government shutdowns that they abandoned efforts to slash funding for safe drinking water, environmental enforcement, and toxic cleanups. Each of the past three years they have resorted to legislative "riders" in their continuing efforts to sacrifice public lands to private interests. Time and again, the President and Vice President have stood firm and stopped them.
The successes of the past seven years have proven beyond doubt that the American people are fully and firmly committed to protecting our environment. They have proven as well that this goal need hardly come at the expense of our economy. Indeed, it is clearer than ever that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. For today we at once enjoy the cleanest air and water in a generation, and the longest economic expansion in our nation's history.
On the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, Americans can look back with pride and gratitude for all we have accomplished as a nation. And as we venture into the 21st century, we can look forward knowing that America is better prepared than ever to meet the environmental challenges ahead.
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