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Protecting America's Natural And Cultural Heritage

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Friday, June 9, 2000


"These lands are among America's great natural treasures, and we owe it to future generations to preserve them. We act today so that years from now, Americans will still be able to paddle free-flowing waters and hike pristine peaks, enjoying these extraordinary stretches of our natural heritage."

Vice President Al Gore
Friday, June 9, 2000

Today, at the White House, President Clinton and Vice President Gore announced the creation of four new national monuments in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. Today's action will protect federal lands which represent unique, irreplaceable pieces of America's natural and cultural heritage. The Clinton-Gore Administration is calling on Congress to stop loading up budget bills with legislative riders that would jeopardize any national monuments created this year and threaten important environmental and public health protections.

Preserving our Heritage through Land Stewardship. In 1906, Congress passed the Antiquities Act, authorizing the President to create national monuments on federally owned lands to protect "objects of historic and scientific interest." Since then, over 100 monuments have been designated in 24 states and the Virgin Islands, protecting some 70 million acres. Last year, President Clinton directed Interior Secretary Babbitt to report to him on unique and fragile federal lands in need of protection. Based on the Secretary's recommendation, the President today protected the following lands as monuments:

  • Canyons of the Ancients – A treasure trove of ancient culture, this 164,000-acre monument 9 miles west of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado contains the highest-known density of archeological sites anywhere in the U.S., with well-preserved remnants of human history going back thousands of years

  • Cascade-Siskiyou – This 52,000-acre monument in southern Oregon includes Soda Mountain and surrounding lands rich in plant and animal life. Its location at the convergence of the Klamath and Cascade Mountains makes the area an ecological wonder with biological diversity unmatched in the Cascade Range.

  • Hanford Reach – Located in south central Washington, this 195,000-acre monument straddles one of the last free-flowing stretches of the Columbia River, a critical area for spawning salmon. It contains a wealth of wildlife and remnants of human history spanning more than 10,000 years.

  • Ironwood Forest – This 129,000-acre monument in the Sonoran Desert 25 miles northwest of Tucson contains rich stands of ironwood trees which can live more than 800 years, and a stunning diversity of bird and animal life well-adapted to the high, rugged desert country.

Each monument includes only lands already owned and managed by the federal government. Private property rights are not affected, and valid existing rights on the federal lands are preserved.

Calling on Congress to Drop Anti-Environmental “Riders.” With today's action, President Clinton has protected more land as national monuments in the lower 48 states than any president in history. But once again, the Republicans are loading up budget bills with legislative “riders” that threaten important environmental and public health protections. The current wave of anti-environmental riders, which the President and Vice President are calling on Congress to drop, include:

  • Prohibiting any spending on improvements or protections at new national monuments;
  • Blocking action on global warming;
  • Crippling clean water protections and blocking safe drinking water standards;
  • Undermining pesticide safety standards;
  • Denying communities help on river restoration; and
  • Blocking new protections for wildlife.

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