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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 22, 2004
President Bush Presents Environmental Youth Awards
Remarks by the President at the President's Environmental Youth Awards Ceremony
The East Garden
3:48 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Welcome, please be seated. Welcome to the East Garden. We're glad you're here. This is a perfect place to honor some of America's finest young stewards of the environment.
By working hard to preserve our natural surroundings, you've made important contributions to your communities and to our nation. We're really glad you're here, and I appreciate the great example you're setting for others.
Steve, thanks for being here. I'm honored that you've accepted the assignment of becoming the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. That's a big job, and I'm glad you're going to do it.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I know that your wife, Debbie, and Matthew are with us here today too, and I'm glad they're here -- good to see you.
I want to congratulate the award winners from 10 EPA regions from around the country. Thanks for what you're doing. I want to thank your family members who are here with you, your teachers who are here with you, your buddies who are here with you -- thanks for coming.
I also want to thank the EPA regional administrators -- I see a couple of recognizable faces here. I'm glad you all are here, I appreciate your hard work for the country.
The award winners today span the entire country, from Barrackville, West Virginia to Shakopee, Minnesota, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. You've cleaned parks, you've restored wetlands and you've organized conservation projects. As volunteers, you've given your time and talents in many different ways, and together you're helping to achieve a great national goal: to protect and pass along the great natural beauty of our country.
Showing concern for the environment is one way of showing your love for America. Americans are fortunate to be able to breathe clean air and enjoy the beautiful diverse landscapes of our vast continent. By getting your hands dirty and helping to clean up your communities you're putting your ideals into action and you're making America a better place. I hope you know that.
As each of you have learned, good stewardship can be a lot of fun. Working outdoors is a chance to clear your mind, or to get exercise, or to be with your family and your friends. That's one of the reasons I like to go down to Crawford. I like to get outdoors. I like to clear my mind. I like to be with my family and my friends. And I like to work on our ranch to restore native grasses and to make our hardwood trees flourish.
I'm looking forward to going down to be with a family member tomorrow, as a matter of fact. See, my brother is the Governor of Florida -- Jeb. And we're going down to clear out some non-native plants from the Everglade area so that the wetlands can be more healthy and flourish more. I'm going to make sure he pulls his weight, too. (Laughter.)
The other thing you're doing is you're setting an important example of service. I don't know if you know this or not, but this week is called National Volunteer Week. It's a time to recognize millions of citizens who are working hard to improve the communities in which they live. After September the 11th, 2001, I called on our fellow citizens to dedicate 4,000 hours, or two years over the course of their lives, to volunteer work. That's what you're doing, and I appreciate that a lot.
I started what's called the USA Freedom Corps to provide information about volunteer opportunities in communities. And if people are interested, they ought to go on the Internet at www.usafreedomcorps.gov. And you can find out how to help if you're interested in environmental projects, they'll be listed there. If you're interested in ways to feed the hungry, you can find that, too.
You've proven with your projects that many small acts taken together can add up to something big, improving the environment; while people who volunteer to love a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves are part of doing small gestures, which makes America a better place. Your efforts are helping to ensure a cleaner world for future generations. I want to thank you for your hard work. I look forward to congratulating you as you come up to receive your awards.
Those of us in government must uphold our responsibilities, as well. Today, I went to Maine -- I saw my mother, I might add -- I announced a new goal for our country, and that is to expand the wetlands of America so that we have better habitat for wildlife; wetlands that are important to trap pollution, and clean water, and stabilize whole areas. For decades this country was losing wetlands, and yet, with sound policy here, and fostering cooperation between landowners and conservationists, we've not only slowed the loss of wetlands -- I know that over the next five years, we can increase the number of wetlands to 3 million, over a five-year period.
To meet this goal, we're going to have to make sure that Congress passes reasonable budgets. In my budget, I've proposed $349 million on two key wetland programs, which would be an increase of more than 50 percent since 2001. As well, the farm bill I passed had a major conservation title to it, which will encourage farmers to replenish the wetlands on their lands so that we can meet an important national goal.
I'm really looking forward to saying hello to you and thanking you. I'm told this is an impressive group of young leaders. You should be proud of your achievements. You're setting a good example for your fellow citizens. It leads me to be confident about the future of the environment because you're contributing so mightily.
So thanks for coming, and now it's my honor to welcome Steve Johnson to the podium to announce the awards.
(The awards were presented.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Welcome. Glad you all are here. Thanks for coming. May God bless you and may God bless your families, and may God continue to bless our great country. Thanks for being here. (Applause.)
END 4:05 P.M. EDT