For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 22, 2002
President Calls for Conservation and Stewardship on Earth Day
Remarks by the President on Earth Day
Whiteface Mountain Lodge
Wilmington, New York
Policy in Focus: Earth Day
12:27 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you for that warm welcome, on a snowy day. (Laughter.) We had a great time in the Park, and I want to thank you all very much for giving me the opportunity to hammer and stack, place gravel -- (laughter) -- in a beautiful part of the world. This is quite a sight for a fellow from Texas. (Laughter.) It's quite a sight for anybody in America. And George is right, this is some of the most beautiful country in our entire nation.
I want to thank you all very much for welcoming me here on Earth Day, a day every spring when America can reflect on our natural world and our duties as Americans to do everything we can to promote the spirit of Earth Day. We have a duty in our country to make sure our land is preserved, our air is clean, our water is pure, our parks are accessible and open and well- preserved. And that's why I'm here, to trumpet this duty and to thank those who assume their duty.
I firmly believe that the 32 years after Earth Day, America understands our obligation much more so than in the years past. That we must be careful of our actions. Americans understand that. Good stewardship is a personal responsibility of all of us. And it's a public value. And that's what's important for Americans to understand, that each of us have a responsibility, and it's a part of our value system in our country to assume that responsibility.
Somebody who understands that is the Governor of the State of New York, George Pataki. He's a great Governor, he's a good friend. (Applause.) He wields a pretty mean hammer. (Laughter.) I'm proud to call him, friend. And I know the people of New York are proud to call him, governor. He's the kind of fellow who does in office that which he says he's going to do. It doesn't matter what your political party is, as far as I'm concerned. What matters is -- in this case, what matters is he does -- he kind of defeats cynicism by preforming. And therefore, what I was going to say is, it doesn't matter what your party is, you've got to admire that in a man.
I also appreciate Christie Todd Whitman's service to the country. Pataki, me and Christie Todd were all governors at one time or another, and got to know each other. I knew she was a very good governor of New Jersey, and she'd be a great Administrator of the EPA, and she hasn't let me down. (Applause.)
I want to thank Congressman Sherry Boehlert and John McHugh and John Sweeney for being here as well, the three Congressmen, thank you all for coming. (Applause.) David Skovron of the -- Chairman of the Adirondack Council, I want to thank you, David, wherever you are. I want to thank Steve McCormick of the Nature Conservancy. I appreciate the good work of the Nature Conservancy. It's a fantastic organization that's doing America a lot of good. I want to thank the members of AmeriCorps. I want to thank the Student Conservation Association, particularly its leadership -- the sergeants. I want to thank the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Park Agency and all the good folks here who care about the environment and who care about this beautiful part of the world.
You know, Christie Todd talked about Teddy Roosevelt and I -- every morning when I go to the Oval Office I sit at the same desk he used, as well as Franklin Roosevelt, as well as other Presidents. But the guy who wrote the book, "Theodore Rex," Edmund Morris, came in, took a look at the Oval Office and said, you know, Teddy Roosevelt sat there -- and it reminds me of what a huge responsibility I have. And I'm grateful for that. And it also amazes me that in this very park, Teddy Roosevelt used to hang out.
It was here that he formed a lot of his views. And I can see why. These parks helped shape his view of conservation, which had a significant impact on our park system here in America -- eventually helped us -- the beginning of a park system that is worthy of protection and worthy of our focus and attention.
Thousands of acres in the Adirondacks are unchanged. And it's important for people to realize why. Not because they were neglected, but because people have cared for the acreage. Not because people have said, well, let's just let it sit. It's because there have been thousands of man-hours put into this area to make it work for the good of all. And that's important for people to realize.
Generations of New Yorkers have made a commitment and have said this: tread lightly here, and make sure we place sensible limits on the recent development. And that's what's happened. Here we see good stewardship in action. The Adirondack Park is among the first protected wilderness areas in our country. Yet, this land is also home to many -- a place to work, a sanctuary for visitors who come here to appreciate the peace and beauty they can find here.
In the north country of New York, you have chosen the way of cooperation. Private organizations, land owners, government at all levels are working with each other as opposed to against each other. And for those who care deeply about our environment and our country, the lessons learned here are essential. And that is, we must cooperate, we must work together. It is a standard for good conservation being set here, and I'm here to herald it and thank you all.
The Adirondack Park also depends upon the work of volunteers. And for those of you who volunteer here, I want to thank you; as do those who work here, thank you as well. You give your time for an incredibly worthy cause. You help maintain the place so that future generations can use it and know it like you have known it. You protect the wildlife so they have room to roam and a place to live.
I was most impressed by how -- by the discussion of the beaver dams and the care for not only the trail system, but for the beavers, themselves. It was an understanding of the importance of good stewardship.
The other thing the volunteers do is they welcome people here, for this is the people's land. This isn't one person's land, it's the people's land; and foreign visitors about the mountain so they can enjoy their time and leave only footprints behind.
All together, 200,000 Americans lend their time to the care of our national parks and federal lands, and that's impressive.
The commitment they show is more than good stewardship, it is responsible citizenship.
Not only do people have responsibility, obviously, but so does your government. And the federal government has got a big responsibility, and I understand that. And I accept the responsibilities of our government. For three decades, we've acted with clear purpose to prevent needless and, at times, reckless disregard of the air and the water and the soil and the wildlife. This commitment has yielded tremendous progress. Our lakes and rivers are much cleaner than they were on the first Earth Day. Limits on toxic emissions have greatly improved the quality of the air we breathe.
The Clean Air Act has helped reduce acid rain and urban air pollution. We've done all this at a time when our economy and population grew dramatically. We have shown that we can expand our economy for the good of all of us, while also being good and conscientious stewards of the environment.
And that's an important lesson. Americans can be proud of these achievements. We also see there is work ahead. The federal government should do more to assist the states and communities in promoting conservation. I have made it my goal of my administration to revitalize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, particularly the grants it provides to states and local communities. (Applause.)
The fund was created to help acquire, conserve and improve recreational facilities on public lands. Yet in recent years, the federal government has fallen way short of meeting this commitment. So I've asked Congress to increase the fund's state grants by 38 percent, to make sure that the states get their share of the money, as the authors of the law intended. This will allow for more innovative conservation approaches, such as the ones led by George Pataki, and other governors, and other local officials around the country.
May probably not come as much of a surprise to you, but I don't believe all wisdom resides in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) I think the people closest to the land are those who probably love the land more than folks in Washington, D.C. And this is a way to make sure that power and money get out of Washington, for the good of the environment.
I also call for new Clear Skies legislation, to set new tough standards to reduce air pollution. For decades, New Yorkers have been fighting acid rain. The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments helped reduce the problem. And now we should do more at the federal level. Some of the biggest sources of air pollution are the power plants, which send tons of emissions into our air. Therefore we have set a goal: with Clear Skies legislation, America will do more to reduce power plant emissions than ever before in our nation's history. (Applause.)
We will reach our ambitious air quality goals through a market-based approach that rewards innovation, reduces cost, and most importantly, guarantees results. Mine is a results-oriented administration. When we say we expect results, we mean it.
We will set mandatory limits on air pollution, with firm deadlines, while giving companies the flexibility to find the best ways to meet the mandatory limits.
Clear Skies legislation, when passed by Congress, will significantly reduce smog and mercury emissions, as well as stop acid rain. (Applause.) It will put more money directly into programs to reduce pollution, so as to meet firm national air quality goals, and put less money into the pockets of lawyers and regulators. (Applause.)
My administration will foster technologies that I'm absolutely convinced will change America for the better. We will promote innovative ways to encourage conservation. I believe we'll be driving automobiles driven by fuel cells in a relatively short period of time, and we're promoting that technology. I know we need to promote renewable sources of energy to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
We also must encourage natural resource restoration, and one good place to start is in the farm bill, that's right now before Congress. The stewardship is the daily work of America's farmers, and those who own the land. I like to tell people, Laura and I are proud to be Texas -- own a Texas ranch, and for us, every day is Earth Day. If you own your own land, every day is Earth Day. If you have to make a living off your land, it's important to make your land as productive as is possible. Every day is Earth Day.
And so, therefore, I support -- strongly support a strong farm conservation effort in the farm bill before the Congress. (Applause.) With more funding and incentives for conservation, we can help our farmers preserve wetlands and wildlife habitat, and to better protect water quality.
Americans have reached a great consensus about the protection on the environment, we've come to understand the success of a generation is not defined by wealth alone. We want to be remembered for our material progress, no question about it, but we also want to be remembered for the respect we give to our natural world.
This Earth Day finds us on the right path, gaining in appreciation for the world in our care. Each of you here today is doing your part to advance that work, and to spread this spirit. And on behalf of our country, I want to thank you.
May God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 12:54 P.M. EDT