THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release January 5, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON PRESERVING AMERICA'S FORESTS
3:25 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. You guys are all cheating.
You're just trying to warm up. I know what's going on. (Laughter.) I was
told by an elderly conservationist from my home state of Arkansas that I
had better do a good job with America's natural resources when I became
President, on pain of feeling the fire of Hades. I did not realize that
our reward is that we would be freezing to death here. (Laughter.)
I want to thank my good friend, Senator Gaylord Nelson, for a lifetime
of leadership in conservation. And I am profoundly grateful to Secretary
Glickman and to Chief Dombeck, a career public servant, who said it all
when he began by saying, this is not a political issue for those of us who
believe in it.
I thank Jim Lyons and the others at the Department of Agriculture and
the Forest Service. I want to thank our EPA Administrator, Carol Browner,
who's here with us today. Just a few days ago, she announced her new rule
to cut harmful emissions caused by the burning of diesel fuel. It will
dramatically improve the quality of air in America, and we thank her for
I would like to also acknowledge the substantial contributions to this
effort, particularly in fading the heat. And believe it or not, even today
there was some heat involved in this. I want to thank John Podesta and
George Frampton and the others at the White House, for their strong support
for the course we have followed. (Applause.)
And I'd like to thank Dr. Tom Elias for hosting us again and for
showing me my Bonsai tree when I came up. (Laughter.) We came here two
years ago to launch the Lands Legacy Initiative, and I knew this was the
place to plant the seeds of success. And I thank him -- that is also
another major achievement of this Congress this year, the largest increase
in funding for land conservation in the history of the Republic, and I
thank all those who were involved in that. (Applause.)
Finally, I would like to thank Congressman Mark Udall for being here,
with his bride, Maggie. Thank you very much for being here. (Applause.)
As you know, he comes from a family with fairly substantial environmental
credentials, and he came here and the first thing he said was that we had
done the right thing today. And we will need his voice in Congress this
year, and we thank him for being here.
For the first time ever, with the Lands Legacy Initiative, we
established a dedicated continuous fund for protecting and restoring green
and open spaces across America. Today, we come to build on that record.
And one way or another, all of us have come here, and I now have come
to know many of you in this audience. And I know we come from different
backgrounds and have traveled different paths through life -- but somehow
or another, we have in common our view that nature is a priceless but
fragile gift, an important part of the fabric of our lives and a major part
of our responsibility to our children and our children's children.
I grew up in a state where more than half the land is covered by
forest. I grew up in a town surrounded by a national park. Most of the
people who enjoy our public lands are like the people I grew up with --
hard-working families, who very often could afford no other kind of
vacation and can afford nature's bounty because our forebears made sure
that it belongs to them, and it belongs to us all.
I am grateful that we can stand here today because of the work done by
Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and John Muir. I am grateful for all
those who have walked in their footsteps for a hundred years. I am
grateful that for the last eight years I had a Vice President who spoke out
strongly for these values and these policies, and helped us to do what we
have done to be good stewards of the land. (Applause.)
We have saved and restored some of our most glorious natural wonders,
from Florida's Everglades to Hawaii's coral reefs, from the redwoods of
California to the red rock canyons of Utah. We have helped hundreds of
communities, under the Vice President's leadership, to protect parks and
farms and other green spaces. We've built new partnerships with landowners
to restore and preserve the natural values of our private land.
We've modernized the management of our national forests to strengthen
protections for water quality, wildlife and recreation, while ensuring a
steady and sustainable supply of timber. We have greatly expanded our
cooperation with other nations to protect endangered species and threatened
areas, like tropical forests.
In a larger sense, I hope and believe we have helped to put to rest
the old debate between economic growth and environmental protection. We
have the strongest economy in a generation and the cleanest environment in
a generation. And I might say, parenthetically, that as we come to grips,
as, inevitably, we must with the challenge of climate change, and even
though it is hard to believe on this day global warming is real --
(laughter) -- those of you who are here today will have to be in the
vanguard reminding people that we can break the iron chain between more
greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth. It is not necessary any
longer, but we have to be smarter about what we're doing.
Today, we take, as Secretary Glickman said, a truly historic lead on
the path of environmental progress. Throughout our national forest system
there are millions of acres of land that do not have, and in most cases
have never had roads cut through them. These areas represent some of the
last, best unprotected wild lands anywhere in America.
These uniquely American landscapes are sanctuaries to hike and hunt
and ski and fish. They're a source of clean water for millions of our
fellow citizens. They are havens for wildlife and home to about one
quarter of all threatened or endangered species in our nation.
On a beautiful fall afternoon more than a year ago now, Secretary
Glickman and many of you joined me at Virginia's Washington and Jefferson
National Forest to launch a process to safeguard these lands. As Secretary
Glickman just described, we reached out to the American people to help us
develop the plan. More than a million and a half responded.
I'm told that more Americans were involved in shaping this policy than
any land preservation initiative in the history of the Republic. Thanks to
their extraordinary support, the process is now complete.
Sometimes, progress comes by expanding frontiers. But sometimes, it's
measured by preserving frontiers for our children. Today, we preserve the
final frontiers of America's national forests for our children.
I am proud to announce that we will protect nearly 60 million acres of
pristine forest land for future generations. That is an area greater in
size than all our national parks combined. From the Appalachian Mountains
to the Sierra Nevada, forest land in 39 states will be preserved in all its
splendor, off limits to road-building and logging that would destroy its
This will include protection for the last great temperate rain forest
in America, Alaska's Tongass National Forest. (Applause.) This initiative
will provide strong, long-term
protection for the Tongass, while honoring our commitment to address the
economic concerns of local communities. We will work with them to ensure a
smooth transition and to build a sound, sustainable economic base for the
Indeed, our entire approach to managing our national forests has been
based on striking the right balance. For example, under this rule, the
Forest Service still will be able to build a road or fight a fire or thin
an area in an environmentally sensitive way, if it is essential to reducing
the risk of future fires. And even as we strengthen protections, the
majority of our forests will continue to be responsibly managed for timber
production and other activities.
Bear in mind, as has already been said, only about 4 or 5 percent of
our country's timber comes from our national forests. And less than 5
percent of that is now being cut in roadless areas. Surely we can adjust
the federal program to replace 5 percent of 5 percent. But we can never
replace what we might destroy if we don't protect those 58 million acres.
Ultimately, this is about preserving the land which the American
people own, for the American people that are not around yet; about
safeguarding our magnificent open spaces, because not everyone can travel
to the great palaces of the world, but everyone can enjoy the majesty of
our great forests. Today we free the land, so that they will remain
unspoiled by bulldozers, undisturbed by chain saws and untouched for our
children. Preserving roadless areas puts America on the right road for the
future, the responsible path of sustainable development.
The great conservationist Aldo Leopold, who pioneered the protection
of wild forest roadless areas, said, "When we see the land as a community
to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." If
there is one thing that should always unite us -- as a community, across
the generations, across parties, across time -- it is love for the land.
We keep faith with that tradition today, and we must keep faith with it in
all the tomorrows to come.
This is a great day for America. I thank all of you who made it
happen. It is your achievement, but it is a gift that you give to all
future generations, to walk in the woods, fish in the streams, breathe the
air. The beauty of our wild lands will now be there for our children, and
all our children, for all time to come. And I hope you will always be very
proud that you were a part of it.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 3:38 P.M. EST