THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the
|For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 22, 1999
VICE PRESIDENT GORE ANNOUNCES
NEW NATIONAL STRATEGY TO RESTORE PRISTINE SKIES IN NATIONAL PARKS AND
In Earth Day Remarks, Also
Calls on Congress to Approve Presidents Lands Legacy Initiative
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, Va. Vice President Gore marked Earth
Day today by announcing a major new federal effort to improve air quality in
national parks and wilderness areas so that visitors can enjoy unspoiled views
of Americas greatest natural treasures.
The Vice President also called on Congress to approve President
Clintons Lands Legacy initiative, which seeks to provide permanent funding of
at least $1 billion a year to protect land and coastal resources.
"Americans deserve to see their national parks in all their
natural splendor, and the steps we are announcing today will ensure they can,"
the Vice President said. "Working closely with the states, we will restore
pristine skies so future generations can see the Grand Canyon, Half Dome and
the Great Smoky Mountains just as the first explorers did."
Air pollution from power plants, cars and factories sometimes
traveling thousands of miles obscures visibility in many of the national parks
and wilderness areas that draw 290 million visitors a year. Pollutants such as
soot and smog also represent serious health risks, particularly to those
suffering chronic respiratory illness.
In the Grand Canyon, haze on some days reduces visibility from
128 miles to 68 miles, a loss of nearly 50 percent. Haze impacts are even
greater at other parks, including: Acadia (from 74 to 19 miles), Glacier (from
84 to 35 miles), Great Smoky Mountains (from 55 to 15 miles), Mount Rainier
(from 103 to 21 miles), and Yosemite (from 132 to 41 miles).
The Environmental Protection Agencys new "regional haze" rule
establishes the year 2064 as the timeframe for restoring visibility in all
national parks and federal wilderness areas to natural conditions, and requires
states to develop 10-year plans to achieve reasonable progress toward that
goal. The rule allows states flexibility to develop plans for cost-effective
pollution reductions and encourages states to collaborate on regional
In a two-mile hike along the Dickey Ridge Trail, the Vice
President stopped at an overview overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, where park
officials say views on a typical day have been reduced from 100 miles at the
turn of the century to less than 20 miles today.
Following the hike, the Vice President delivered remarks outside
the park visitor center, where he was joined by EPA Administrator Carol
Browner, National Park Service Director Bob Stanton, and Park Superintendent
In his remarks, the Vice President urged Congress to fully fund
the environmental priorities in the Presidents FY 2000 budget, including the
Lands Legacy initiative the largest one-year investment ever proposed for the
protection of Americas land and coastal resources.
For FY 2000, within the context of a balanced budget, Lands
Legacy includes discretionary funding of $413 million for federal protection of
natural and historic sites across the country; $434 million to help state,
local and tribal governments preserve farms, urban parks and other local green
spaces; and $183 million to protect coastal and ocean resources. To continue
these efforts through the next century, the President and Vice President are
calling for permanent funding of at least $1 billion a year beginning in FY
2001, with at least half dedicated to helping communities preserve local green
"With todays action, we our fulfilling our sacred duty to
restore precious lands already protected as part of our nations natural
endowment," the Vice President said. "Lands Legacy will guarantee permanent
funding so this and future generations can add to that endowment, preserving
irreplaceable pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every