THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 12, 1999 12:15 P.M. EST
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND VICE PRESIDENT
ON ANNOUNCEMENT OF LANDS LEGACY INITIATIVE
U.S. National Arboretum
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you for your warm welcome. And to Theodore Roosevelt IV, I want to say a word of thanks and acknowledge your tremendous personal work on the environment. We've had a chance to work together in the past, and for a long time now, and I appreciate the introduction.
And to Jean Mason, President of the Arboretum Neighborhood Civic Association, thank you for your commitment to this cause, and for placing it in the right perspective. And we really appreciate all that you and your colleagues do.
Well, Mr. President, as you know, we wouldn't be here today without the leadership and vision of the Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt. And I want to thank you for your great work, Mr. Secretary, and for your leadership, really, across the board. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Rich Rominger, thank you so much for your friendship and for your commitment to all of these issues, and for your stewardship of this place where we're now located.
To George Frampton, who is chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; Elgie Holstein; Jim Lyons, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the Agriculture Department; Peter Robinson, Deputy Administrator at EPA; and other members of the President's team in this administration. To Mayor Tony Williams, thank you for your hospitality today, Mr. Mayor, and congratulations on beginning your tenure here in this great city. and we greatly appreciate your participation in this event.
To Dr. Thomas Elias, Director of the National Arboretum, and to other distinguished guests -- there are a great many leaders of environmental organizations who are here, including Sylvia Earl, explorer-in-residence at National Geographic. I'm not going to try to mention everybody, but I am very honored that Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, Mr. Environment, is here. And, Senator Nelson, I'd like to ask you to stand. We appreciate your presence here today. (Applause.)
We're here today, behind President Bill Clinton's leadership, to support America's communities in their goal of smarter growth while preserving open spaces that make this nation so special. And in just a moment, I will introduce President Clinton, who will make the two historic announcements that will help us do just that.
I did want to say that it's a special honor for me to be introduced this morning by Ted Roosevelt IV, not only because of his individual work, which I acknowledge, but also, of course, because he is the great-grandson of one of America's greatest conservationists, Theodore Roosevelt. We all know Teddy Roosevelt as a great President. To me, he was more than that; he was also a great Vice President. (Laughter.) I'm so sorry that provoked so much laughter. I know you all will think about that afterwards. (Laughter.)
When he was Vice President, Teddy Roosevelt was once caught in a hotel fire, and was ordered down to the lobby with the other guests -- I'm sure Ted knows this story. A clerk prevented him from returning to his room, and TR said, "But I'm Vice President!" And the clerk let him go, but then stopped him and said, "Hold on, vice president of what?" (Laughter.) And Roosevelt said, "well, the United States, of course." And the clerk said, "Well, get back in line. I thought you were vice president of this hotel." (Laughter.)
Nearly 100 years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt knew that preserving the beauty and natural wonder of this great land was vital not just to the health of our environment, but also to the health of our families, the power of our economy, and the strength of our communities. President Clinton and I have worked very hard these past six years, with so many of you, to govern from that same wisdom and to craft solutions that are good for families, business and the environment.
Six years later, not only do we have the healthiest economy in a generation -- and some are now saying the healthiest and strongest economy in the entire history of the United States of America -- we also have the cleanest environment in a generation. These goals can be pursued together. They go hand in hand.
Today, we're preserving our nation's rivers by bringing together businesses and communities through our American Heritage Rivers Initiative. We're redeveloping thousands of acres of contaminated land and rundown old factories by leveraging up to $28 billion in private investment and creating 200,000 jobs.
Today, one day after 1998 was officially named the hottest year in recorded history, we are working to reduce the threat of global warming in many ways, including by working with the big three automakers to develop affordable cars that are three times more fuel-efficient than today's cars. We're working to reduce chemical contamination by cleaning up hazardous waste sites, and through a voluntary partnership with chemical companies. We're proving that we can grow the economy and protect the environment effectively at the same time.
We know it is not enough just to protect our natural treasures. Many of the green places and open spaces that need protecting most today are in our own neighborhoods. In too many places, the beauty of local vistas has been degraded by decades of ill-planned and ill-coordinated development. In too many places, people move out to the suburbs in search of the American dream only to find that they're playing leap-frog with bulldozers. They long for amenities that are not eyesores just as they long to give their children the experience of a meadow, the child's paradise, standing at the end of a street.
Many communities now have no sidewalks, and nowhere to walk to, which is bad for public safety as well as for our nation's physical health. It's become impossible in such settings for neighbors to greet one another on the street, or for children to walk to their own neighborhood schools. Too frequently, a gallon of gas is used up just purchasing a gallon of milk. Too often, if a parent wants to read a child a bedtime story, they call on a cell phone while they're stuck in a traffic jam, and try to explain why they can't be home in time for the child to go to sleep. All of these things add up to more stress for already over-stressed family lives.
The good news is that many communities are coming together to craft solutions. In the 1998 election, more than 200 communities discussed, and most adopted, measures to enhance livability. They understand not only is smart growth better for our families, but places with a high quality of life are more economically competitive as well.
We've been proud to play a role -- not by telling communities what to do, but by helping them to do what they want to do. Yesterday, I was proud to launch our new Livability Initiative for the 21st century, to help communities get the tools they need to preserve green spaces, enhance economic competitiveness, and improve our quality of life. It includes a proposed $700 million in tax credits for state and local bonds to build more livable communities; new steps to ease traffic congestion, including the single highest investment in public transit in history; and new steps to promote cooperation and sound planning among neighboring communities. And the message is clear: working together, we can build more livable communities and protect our natural heritage for future generations, while sustaining economic growth well into the 21st century.
And, ladies and gentlemen, this is all happening under the leadership of President Bill Clinton. There is no person who understands what we're trying to do in all of the groups that are represented here today. There's no person who has worked harder to protect our resources and preserve our heritage, and no person who has worked harder to give our families and communities the tools they need to make their hopes and dreams come true, other than President Bill Clinton.
The President is here today to outline truly historic steps that will enable our country to build on the progress that has taken place during these last six years. He will make two historic announcements that take the next step toward protecting our open spaces and creating more livable communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest presidential steward of our environment since President Teddy Roosevelt, President Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for that welcome. Thank you, Jean Mason, for taking the tour with us and for the work you do with the Neighborhood Association. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for showing up here today and being with us.
Jean was telling us that a lot of the schoolchildren in Washington, D.C. come to the Arboretum every year on tours. I hope your presence here and her remarks here will lead even more of the city's children to find their way to this remarkable place.
I'd like to thank Thomas Elias for the tour that he gave the Vice President and me and Jean today. And I thank Secretary Babbitt for his strong leadership for the environment, especially in the area that we're discussing today. And Deputy Secretary Rich Rominger and the other representatives here from the Agriculture Department, the Commerce Department, the EPA.
And I want to thank Theodore Roosevelt IV, for being faithful to his family and his national heritage, in all the wonderful work he's done. And I'd like to say just a special word -- I see my good friend, Senator Gaylord Nelson, out there -- people in public life have periodic chances to make an impact that will last far beyond their own lives. I think Senator Nelson certainly has.
Six and a half years ago, in the summer of 1992, in the late spring, when I first talked to Al Gore about joining the ticket in the '92 election, this -- what we're here to do today -- this is one of the things that I talked to him about. And I said I want you to come help me; there are things you know more about than I do. We differ on how many and what they are. (Laughter.) But, anyway, I said, you know, there are things you know more about than I do. And I said, we can make a difference that will last forever, for as long as the United States lasts. And he has been faithful to that in this administration. And I'm very grateful to him.
I also want to thank George Frampton for the work that he has done to put this proposal together.
We just took this tour to learn about the vital research the Agriculture Department does here; to also hear about the young children, the families that use this facility. I also heard about the elementary schoolers who grow vegetables and donate much of their harvest to the D.C. Central Kitchen. I heard about the AmeriCorps members and hundreds of other dedicated volunteers who work here to make sure that we'll always have this beautiful sanctuary in the middle of our Capitol City.
I'd like to mention one of them who is here, Mary Morose, over here. Thank you for being here. She is a retired government geologist who recently donated more than $1 million of her life's savings to help insure that the Arboretum will always be here, for the children to see. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
We're just here trying to follow Mary's lead. We think every child in every community ought to have a chance to grow up around tall trees as well as tall buildings; to know what vegetables look like when they're growing in the ground, not just when they're in the grocery store; to know what it feels like to walk on a carpet of pine needles as well as one of asphalt.
At the dawn of the century, many Americans saw nature only as a resource to be exploited, or an obstacle to be overcome. We can all take pride, each of us, in the work that we have done and will do. But it really is truly astonishing that, at the dawning of the Industrial Age in America, Theodore Roosevelt, even then, knew nature was a divine gift; that old-growth forests were more than trees to be cut down; that a pristine peak was more than a repository of ore. He set aside millions of acres of forests and mountains and valleys and canyons, land shaped by the hand of God over hundreds of millions of years. He defined his great central task as leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.
In the last hundred years, I think only his kinsman, Franklin Roosevelt, approached his devotion to setting aside land and preserving resources. We have tried over these last six years to fulfill that vision. We have set aside more than 1.5 million acres in the spectacular red-rock canyons in Utah. And I might say, I think more and more folks out there have decided it's not such a bad idea. (Laughter.)
We have protected vast acres of the Mojave Desert of California, designating three new national parks; saved more than 400,000 pristine acres of land in Alaska. We're about to complete an historic agreement to save vast tracts of ancient Redwoods in California. We have worked hard to preserve the Florida Everglades and to restore much of them; and put a stop to a massive mining operation planned for right next to Yellowstone, America's very first national park.
But we have a lot to do. All of you know that. Our population is growing; our cities are growing; our commitment to conservation must grow as well. We'll never have a better time to act because of the unprecedented prosperity, because we had our first surplus this year -- or last year -- in nearly 30 years. And we ought to remember what Theodore Roosevelt said -- we are not building this country of ours for a day; we have to make sure it lasts through the ages.
So today I am proud to announce a Lands Legacy Initiative -- $1 billion to meet the conservation challenges of a new century; fully paid for in my new balanced budget, more than doubling our already considerable commitment to protect America's land. It represents the single largest annual investment in protecting our green and open spaces since Theodore Roosevelt set our nation on the path of conservation nearly a century ago. And to keep on that path, we will be working with Congress to create a permanent funding stream for this purpose, beginning in 2001. (Applause.)
The first part of the plan builds directly on Theodore Roosevelt's conservation legacy by adding new crown jewels to our endowment of natural resources. Next year alone, we will dedicate $440 million, largely from the sale of oil from existing offshore oil leases, to acquiring and protecting precious lands and coastal waters. Secretary Babbitt and I were talking about it on the way in.
Among our many priorities, we intend to secure an additional 450,000 acres of private land in and around the new Mojave and Joshua Tree National Parks; to expand beautiful forest refuges in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York; to continue our massive restoration of Florida's Everglades; to extend America's marine sanctuaries and restore coastal reefs.
In addition, I will propose to add the highest level of wilderness protection to more than 5 million acres of backcountry lands within Yellowstone, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountain and other national parks. If Congress approves this request, then these places will never know the roar of bulldozers and chain-saws. They will never drown out the call of the wild. Families will still be free to enjoy the lands, but they will be expected to take only photographs and leave only footprints.
The second part of our plan, which works in tandem with the Livable Communities Initiative the Vice President announced yesterday, represents a new vision of environmental stewardship for the new century. Today it's no longer enough to preserve our grandest natural wonders. As communities keep growing and expanding, it's become every bit as important to preserve the small but sacred green and open spaces closer to home -- woods and meadows and seashores where children can still play; streams where sportsmen and women can fish; agricultural lands where family farmers can produce the fresh harvest we often take for granted.
In too many communities, farmland and open spaces are disappearing at a truly alarming rate. In fact, across this country, we lose about 7,000 acres every single day. And as the lands become more scarce, it becomes harder and harder for communities to then afford the price of protecting the ones that are left. That is why we have to act now.
So we will also dedicate nearly $600 million to helping communities across our country save the open spaces that greatly enhance our families' quality of life. With flexible grants, loans and easements, we will help communities to save parks from being paved over. We'll help to save farms from being turned into strip malls. We'll help them to acquire new lands for urban and suburban forests and recreation sites. We'll help them set aside new wetlands, coastal and wildlife preserves. There will be no green mandates and no red tape. Instead, the idea is to give communities all over our country the tools they need to make the most of their own possibilities.
Let me just give you an example of what I mean. South Kingstown, Rhode Island, was a quiet farming town for more than two centuries. Today, it's the fastest-growing community in the state. Its citizens welcome growth, but they want to maintain their parks and their open spaces. They want to make sure parents won't have to sit in traffic jams when they could be home reading to their children. They want to remain the kind of livable town where employers have no trouble recruiting educated workers interested in a high quality of life. So South Kingstown is setting aside one of every five acres as green space. They're revitalizing the historic downtown by creating a greenway along the Saugatucket River so people can stroll and bike right through the heart of town.
And in November, voters overwhelmingly approved a million-dollar bond measure to protect more farms and more open spaces. This is the work we will help them to complete, and the kind of work we will help people all over America to do. This is the kind of future-oriented community action all Americans, without regard to party or region, should be supporting -- action that combines a vigorous commitment to economic prosperity with an equally vigorous commitment to conservation.
Ever since Theodore Roosevelt launched our nation on the course of conservation, pessimists have claimed that this would hurt the economy. They've been wrong for 100 years now, but they haven't given up. Time and again they have been wrong. Whether the issue was park land preservation, acid rain, deadly pesticides, polluted rivers, the ozone hole, or any number of other environmental issues all of you know very well, we have always found ways to improve our environment, protect the public health, and enshrine our public heritage and still continue to grow our economy.
In fact, with the recent developments in technology and the looming problems of climate change, we now know that we will have a far more prosperous economy if we do the right things by the environment. And I hope that in the 21st century we will not have to fight that battle for another 100 years.
With this historic Lands Legacy Initiative, and the far-sighted, livable communities plan the Vice President announced yesterday, we will use flexible, innovative means to protect our nation's and our communities' natural heritage. We will help to create liveable cities where both citizens and businesses want to put down roots. We will honor the core principle Theodore Roosevelt set out for us 100 years ago: to leave this magnificent country even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)