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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 21, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                            ON CONSERVATION

                            The Rose Garden

10:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to begin by thanking this distinguished group of Americans who have joined me and I want to introduce them all. To my immediate left, looking over my shoulder here is Mayor Brent Coles of Boise, Idaho; Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day; and next to him, his small namesake, Major League Baseball legend, Gaylord Perry.

Henry Diamond is here, who is a partner in the law firm of Beveridge and Diamond, and a distinguished environmentalist, heading the largest environmental law firm in the nation. Roger Schlickeisen, the President of Defenders of Wildlife, over my right shoulder here. Jack Hanna is here, the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo. Frank Beamer, the head coach of the Virginia Tech Football Team. As he said: Last year number two; and rising this year. (Laughter.)

Jimmie Lee Solomon, the Senior Vice President of Baseball operations for Major League Baseball, Dr. Michael Hirshfield, the Vice President at the Research Protection Programs of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. David Waller, the Director of Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who told me to say something good about wildlife today.

I often feel that we're in the presence of it here in Washington. (Laughter.) And I appreciate his efforts to preserve it. And the lady to my left is Sue Maturkanich, who is a teacher from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I wanted to thank her for being here and for her interest in the intersection of education and the environment for our children.

These conservation and community leaders have come here from all over America to work for the protection of our open spaces and our most precious lands; to ask Congress to provide permanent funding for them with federal funds dedicated to supporting state and local communities.

Under the leadership of Chairman Don Young and Congressman George Miller, the House recently cast an overwhelming bipartisan vote to provide permanent funding for America's open spaces from the resources the Federal Government gets from federal offshore oil leases. There is significant support in the Senate for this legislation. And we are here today to ask the Senate leadership to work with Senators Frank Murkowski and Jeff Bingaman, again on a bipartisan basis, to pass the Conservation and Reinvestment Act known as CARA.

When I was growing up in Arkansas I had such easy access to parks and woods and mountains and rivers and lakes, that I suppose I took them for granted a little bit. But we know that we can no longer take our access to our natural resources and our wildlife for granted. In too many communities, our green spaces and our open spaces continue to disappear.

For too many of our young people and their families it's becoming harder and harder to protect what we have left, the meadows and seashores, the lands farmers harvest, the streams where families fish. With more and more people visiting our national parks and forests, we also have to do more to protect and preserve these treasures. That's why Gaylord Perry is here today. He believes that all our children should have a place to play Little League ball. That's why Sue Maturkanich is here today all the way from Michigan to remind the Congress how essential it is for children to have a good place to play.

For seven and a half years now, Vice President Gore and I have fought for these causes: to protect our natural resources, to provide communities with resources they need to preserve green and open spaces. Working with Congress, again on a bipartisan basis, we protected Yellowstone from the threat of mining, preserved the Baca Ranch in New Mexico, saved age-old California Redwoods, set aside huge stretches of the Mojave Desert for the national park system, and launched the most ambitious environmental restoration effort ever in the magnificent Florida Everglades. But we also provided significant new resources to help states and communities preserve farms, urban parks, and other precious open spaces.

The Mayor of Boise is here, as I said earlier. We worked with him to give him the funds to develop a 55-acre recreation complex so that children and parents have a place to enjoy the wonders of nature close to home.

Here in Washington, D.C., we helped the city rebuild Girard Street Park, the only open space in an entire urban neighborhood, a park that will give children a place to play in safety and the community a place to call their own.

We believe every community should have such places so that neighborhood parks and baseball fields are as common a cell phones and video games. That's why CARA is so important and why Congress must pass it now before it adjourns.

I want to make it clear: The virtue of CARA is one of the things which makes it controversial in the ordinary course of congressional operations. It would set aside money that we have coming in every year, automatically, for these communities for these purposes, so that they would always know that there was a stream of money there to protect the future for our children.

I also hope Congress, before it leaves, will provide adequate resources for us to continue to protect our air and water and ensure permanent funding for land conservation. And I hope they will send me budget bills free of anti-environmental riders. Once again, too many of these bills are being watered down with riders aimed at weakening public health protections, blocking common-sense efforts to combat climate change, and surrendering public lands to private interests.

In the last 24 hours, Congress has added some more of these riders. I vetoed bills before because they contained them, and if I have to, I'll do it again. But I ask Congress to drop them so we can get on with the people's business, and they can go back home and talk to the voters.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt set our nation on the path of conservation. He reminded us, and I quote: "Our responsibilities to the coming millions is like that of parents to children. In wasting our resources, we are wronging our descendants."

Since then, we've answered President Roosevelt's call to conservation. And time after time, over the entire length of the 20th century, we put the restoration and protection of the environment ahead of partisan conflict.

In the weeks ahead, we should continue to do this. We have a unique and profoundly important effort to give people at the grass-roots level in America a permanent source of funding to protect our natural resources.

A chance like this comes along once in a great while. That's why there were over 300 votes for this bill in the House. And there ought to be 100 votes for it in the Senate, and I hope we can get it done and these folks, by coming here today, have made it more likely.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 10:11 A.M. EDT