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March 4, 1999

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Thank God our forebears felt an abiding responsibility not only to their own generations but to ours. Standing at the edge of a new century, I am deeply grateful for their altruism and foresight. I am grateful that they taught us the enduring value of stewardship.

President Bill Clinton
March 4, 1999

Today, at a celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the Department of the Interior, President Clinton will pledge to work with Congress to provide permanent funding to preserve America's lands legacy. The President's fiscal year 2000 budget includes $1 billion to protect natural treasures and help communities preserve local green spaces -- the largest one-year investment ever for the protection of America's land and coastal resources. To sustain these efforts through the coming century, the President today is calling for a guaranteed funding stream of at least $1 billion a year.

Celebrating 150 Years of Environmental Stewardship. The President joins Interior Secretary Babbitt to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Department of the Interior and to honor employees and citizens who have helped advance the Department's mission and goals. Created in 1849 to administer the vast holdings acquired through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War of 1846-48, the Department today manages more than 440 million acres of federal lands, including some 360 national parks and 500 wildlife refuges.

Preserving America's Lands Legacy. Over the past six years, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have worked to restore the Florida Everglades, save Yellowstone from mining, preserve Utah's spectacular red-rock canyons, and protect other precious lands. This week, the Administration concluded an historic agreement to save the ancient redwoods of California's Headwaters Forest. As part of his balanced budget for fiscal year 2000, the President proposed a $1 billion Lands Legacy Initiative that charts a new conservation vision for the 21st century: preserving irreplaceable pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every citizen. It includes $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.

Securing Our Environmental Legacy. To sustain these efforts in the years ahead, the President today is calling for legislation to provide a permanent funding stream of at least $1 billion a year, within a balanced budget, beginning in fiscal year 2001. This legislation should:

  • Dedicate about half of the funding to state, local, and tribal efforts to protect or restore open space, greenways, urban parks, wildlife habitat, coastal wetlands, farms and forests;
  • Allow communities to use a range of tools, including easements and other flexible mechanisms, to protect resources in the manner best suited to local needs;
  • Protect wildlife by funding efforts to preserve and restore a diversity of habitats;
  • Recognize the unique environmental needs of coastal states without creating new incentives for offshore oil leasing.

Progress, Not Partisanship, on the Environment. President Clinton also calls on Congress to: grant wilderness protection to 5 million acres within national parks and monuments; approve Better America Bonds to help communities save green space, improve water quality, and clean up brownfields; fully fund the Clean Water Action Plan, and strengthen and reauthorize the Clean Water Act; approve the Clean Air Partnership Fund, and proposed research and tax incentives, to help meet the challenge of global warming; and pass legislation free of anti-environmental riders.

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