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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release October 15, 1999


This week, as working families across the country celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, we owe thanks to the generations of Americans who have built and nurtured our National Wildlife Refuge system, the world's oldest and largest network of lands dedicated to conserving fish and wildlife.

For nearly a century, since President Theodore Roosevelt established the first wildlife preserve on Florida's Pelican Island, the refuge system has been the hidden jewel among our nation's public lands. Today, through partnerships with conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts, the system has grown to 93 million acres across our 50 states. I am proud of all that this Administration has done to protect and expand critical wildlife havens from the Arctic coastal plain to the Canaan Valley of West Virginia, where we established the nation's 500th wildlife refuge. These efforts have helped bring back species such as the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and whooping crane, while providing extraordinary recreation opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts.

We are working to restore and protect wildlife on other public and private lands as well. Our new effort to protect more than 40 million acres of "roadless" area on our national forests will preserve habitat critical to many endangered species. And our Lands Legacy initiative would provide communities with significant new resources to protect precious habitats while fighting sprawl. Unfortunately, Congress is denying full funding for this important initiative. As we commemorate our nation's success in protecting wildlife, I urge Congress to join us in ensuring that future generations can carry on this legacy.