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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 25, 2000


I am very pleased today to sign bipartisan legislation authorizing protection of New Mexico's Baca Ranch as the new Valles Caldera National Preserve.

From time to time, we are presented with an opportunity to save a truly magnificent piece of America's rich natural endowment. Today we seize one such opportunity. At the heart of the scenic Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe, the Baca Ranch contains the remarkable Valles Caldera -- the collapsed crater of an ancient volcano -- and sustains one of our nation's largest wild elk herds. Thanks to the careful stewardship of the Dunigan family, this extraordinary landscape appears today much as it did when the first settlers arrived. And thanks to the bipartisan efforts of the New Mexico delegation, we will ensure that it remains healthy and whole for generations to come.

I commend the Dunigans, for offering us the chance to open this treasure to the American people; Senators Bingaman and Domenici, and Representatives Udall and Wilson, for helping to lead this historic conservation effort; and the leaders of the Santa Clara Pueblo, for sharing with us their reverence for this land.

Today's success should inspire us to work even harder to conserve America's natural heritage. The acquisition of Baca Ranch was made possible with increased conservation funding I secured last year through my Lands Legacy initiative. I have proposed another significant increase in Lands Legacy funding for the coming fiscal year. Unfortunately, appropriations bills passed by both the House and the Senate would provide only a third of my request, cutting Lands Legacy funding considerably below this year's level. In addition, riders attached to several appropriations measures aim to cripple wildlife protections, surrender public lands to private interests, and hamper common-sense efforts to combat global warming. I urge Congress to drop these anti-environmental riders and to fully fund my Lands Legacy initiative.

Ultimately, our goal must be to establish permanent conservation funding so that each new generation will have the resources to protect other critical lands across America. I am very pleased that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today approved a version of bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly by the House that moves us closer to that goal. I am fully committed to working with Congress to create a lasting endowment to support federal, state and local conservation efforts. Let us work together, in the spirit of today's historic conservation achievement, to strengthen, not weaken, environmental protections.