For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 3, 2003
Mrs. Bush's Remarks for the National Association of Counties
Executive Order: Preserve America
Thank you, Ken, for your warm welcome and for hosting this important conference. Thank you, Secretary Norton, for your service to our country. Thank you, John, for your leadership as Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. And thank you, our County Commissioners, for your hard work to make America's counties great places to call home. Your being here today represents your commitment to make your communities even better.
The new initiative I want to talk about today will help you do just that. Preserve America is a new White House initiative that will provide you with greater support to protect and restore our nation's cultural and natural resources -- from monuments and buildings to landscapes and main streets. The Departments of Interior and Commerce and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation are your strong partners in this initiative.
As you traveled here, you may have flown over America's patchwork landscape of farms and small towns. You may have driven through Main Street with its welcoming charm or walked past the Jefferson Memorial with its curving dome and thoughtful presence.
Every mile of your trip was a journey through America's great heritage -- a heritage our parents and grandparents bestowed to us, and each of you continue to build upon.
America is blessed with historic architecture, landscapes and communities. Every one tells a story about the past and provides insight for the future. But to prepare for the future, we must remember our history.
Imagine a vast, open space of green and gold dotted with trees of poplar and pine. Imagine endless waterways and prairies full of deer and bear. Imagine oceans of grasses as far as the eye can see. This was the abounding West of America more than 200 years ago. It was where President Thomas Jefferson and a band of explorers longed to go.
This past Friday marked the day two hundred years ago when Jefferson received funding from Congress to send his Corps of Discovery out into the uncharted West. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps took off on a four-year adventure of a lifetime. Their effort to chart the area between the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast set these Americans on a voyage that changed our nation forever.
They traveled thousands of miles, crossing new lands and meeting new people. They opened the unknown West for further exploration; and they experienced the tremendous beauty that is America. Clark wrote in his journal that it was, "the grandest sight he had ever beheld."
During their travels, they met a young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea. She helped Lewis and Clark communicate with the Native Americans. She was a guide, friend and explorer. At the age of seventeen, with an infant on her back, Sacagawea traveled with the Corps to the Pacific and back. Her role in the expansion of America is as well known as that of Lewis and Clark.
Residents of the small town of Salmon, Idaho, where Sacagawea was born, want every American to remember her contributions. The residents of Salmon and Lemhi County sought a fitting way to honor her and to celebrate the bicentennial of the expedition. They partnered with the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management to create the Sacagawea Interpretive Center. There visitors will learn about Sacagawea and her role in charting the West. When the center opens in August, it will be one of many opportunities for learning and recreation.
In Idaho modern-day explorers can follow the Lewis and Clark Trail by foot, boat or horseback. The segment of trail that runs through the Salmon and Lemhi Valleys is one of the few original portions still in existence. Visitors can see remnants of the old Indian path where Lewis and Clark crossed under the Bitterroot Mountains. They can picnic near the "Pirimids" rock formation, which Clark mentions in his journal, and visit Tower Rock where he camped.
As visitors enjoy the rugged beauty of Salmon, they can learn about one of our nation's most historic events. I applaud Commissioner Robert Cope and the residents of Lemhi County for their hard work to preserve this historic site for continued learning and enjoyment.
This is what Preserve America is all about. Our nation's cultural and natural resources are important parts of our heritage. Preserve America will promote historic and cultural preservation and encourage greater public appreciation of our national treasures. As we recognize the contributions Lewis and Clark made to our national landscape, we can think about our own contributions to future generations. The very definition of heritage is something that is passed down from preceding generations. So I ask you today, what will we pass down to our children -- what will their heritage be?
President Theodore Roosevelt said, "Our duty to the whole...bids us...restrain from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." That is our call today.
Our land is the foundation upon which the American story is written. Our history is rooted in buildings, parks and towns. When we are able to walk the same trail Lewis and Clark once did, history comes to life.
Every American deserves to discover and learn about our nation's heritage. But imagine if our children could never see the Liberty Bell or the small town where their grandparents grew up. Imagine if they could not step foot upon the same land English settlers did when they first landed in America.
Receding shores once threatened Jamestown Island in Virginia where the first settlers arrived. But thanks to a federal renovation effort which stabilized the shoreline, visitors can continue to explore this island. As we approach the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, we continue to learn from this wonderful site -- remnants of the original fort were discovered during the renovation.
Many of our historic sites and monuments are deteriorating and need to be preserved. I am proud to serve as the honorary chair of Save America's Treasures, which is working to restore and protect these valuable resources. And I am proud of the President's commitment to continue to support Save America's Treasures with 30 million dollars this year.
The President wants to continue this support and the preservation of our heritage through Preserve America. Today, President Bush signed an Executive Order on Preserve America to ensure that everyone, especially our children, will continue to explore and learn from historic treasures like Jamestown.
This order directs federal agencies to inventory and promote greater use of historical sites in partnership with state, tribal, and local governments. Preserve America will provide more opportunities for preservation and increase tourism and economic development. There are so many stories of preservation at work in our communities.
Arlington House is the ancestral home of Robert E. Lee. This beautiful building overlooks Washington, DC, from Arlington National Cemetery. It is one of the most visited historic homes in the country, and the National Park Service wants to keep it that way. Through a recent restoration project, the home was restored and many safety upgrades were made.
And recently in Topeka, Kansas, the Monroe School Building was restored as a learning center on the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. This center will teach visitors about the importance of this landmark decision and the civil rights movement.
Our open spaces and landscapes also provide us with great opportunities for learning. Preserve America will promote the conservation and enjoyment of our natural resources.
Our parks and open spaces are sanctuaries for learning and reflection. And for the President and me, the outdoors is a great place to relax and unwind.
Growing up in Midland, I often visited the wonderful parks of West Texas. Monahans Sandhills State Park is one of my favorites, with sand dunes which children of all ages love to slide down. The park is more than three thousand acres, but the dunes actually stretch hundreds of miles. They mark the spot where the Permian Sea used to be.
I remember trips to Monahans with my Sunday School class and Girl Scout troop. The President also remembers visiting the park with his Cub Scout Troop. Barbara Bush, his mother, served as den mother for the troop. According to the President, it was about this time that her hair turned white.
Many presidents and first ladies have been deeply committed to preserving our natural heritage. Lady Bird Johnson is one of my great inspirations. Mrs. Johnson made America more beautiful by restoring city and national parks and re-planting native grasses and wildflowers.
She worked tirelessly to preserve them and promote their use in planned landscapes. Her work is evident in fields of bright wildflowers and native grasses that line our roadsides and parklands. She once said of her work, "I've had a long love affair with the environment. It is my sustenance, my pleasure, my joy. Flowers in the city are like lipstick on a woman -- it just makes you look better to have a little color."
We are fortunate to live in a country with so much color and so many wide open spaces for families to enjoy. One beautiful place they will be able to enjoy for years to come is Pelican Island in Indian River County, Florida. This Island was designated the first National Refuge by President Theodore Roosevelt 100 years ago. Indian River County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working hard to restore the refuge and bring visitors back since erosion has wiped out half the island.
A new foot path called Centennial Trail will open soon, taking explorers right through the refuge. Visitors will also have a great view of the island from an 18-foot observation tower. Previously the only way to see the island was by boat. I commend Indian River County Commissioners Thomas Lowther and Kenneth Macht for their hard work to preserve this important piece of our natural heritage.
This is exactly the type of conservation we want to continue through Preserve America. Through the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, the Department of the Interior will support local partnerships that conserve open spaces. CCI expands the President's commitment to conservation through partnership, civic involvement and economic incentives. CCI will provide 15 million dollars this year for conservation partnerships. The President proposes to double these partnerships in 2004 with 36 million dollars in cooperative conservation initiative grants.
The second goal of Preserve America is to support community efforts to restore cultural resources for heritage tourism. A recent NACo [National Association of Counties] study explained that heritage tourism is a strong economic development tool. It creates jobs and increases property values and tax revenue. As we preserve and enhance our cultural and natural heritage, we increase the appeal of our communities for residents and visitors. Preserving and celebrating our past is critical to heritage tourism and thriving communities.
Texas is one state that has a successful heritage tourism program because local, regional, and statewide groups work together. Spending by visitors in the Texas Heritage Trails region totaled more than 95 million dollars from 1999 to 2001.
Cedar Falls in Black Hawk County, Iowa, experienced similar success thanks to its Main Street Program. In the 1980s, the farming industry slowed and factories closed. Many in Cedar Falls lost their jobs and left the historic town. In just a few years, the downtown area was nearly vacant. The community took action and formed a Main Street program that has grown to include merchants, residents, and neighbors. They formed inter-agency partnerships to encourage economic development.
Today, more than 14 million dollars of private investment has helped to rehabilitate nearly 300 buildings. More than 200 new jobs were created, and Cedar Falls received a Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Congratulations to County Auditor Grant Veeder and Environmental Health Manager John Linda for their success.
Through Preserve America, Secretary of Commerce Don Evans will direct the Economic Development Administration, which has a grant budget of nearly 290 million dollars, to support and promote more projects like this. America's downtowns and main streets are vital parts of our communities. By ensuring their success, we strengthen America.
Communities like Cedar Falls will continue to be honored for their hard work through two Preserve America awards. The Presidential Award for Preserve America will reward innovative partnerships that achieve public benefits through preservation. Communities that integrate preservation and tourism may also apply to be designated as Preserve America Communities. These awards will showcase model projects and encourage community leaders like you to share your experience with others.
I am thrilled that Preserve America will help save our past and ensure a future filled with open spaces and opportunities for learning and enjoyment. The Preserve America Executive Order, the awards and federal support, will provide strong incentives for continued preservation and enjoyment of our cultural and natural resources.
The late author Stephen Ambrose detailed the epic journey of Lewis and Clark in a book titled, "Lewis and Clark, A Voyage of Discovery." Ambrose and his family set out on their own journey to retrace Lewis and Clark's expedition. In the introduction he explains how this happened.
He wrote, "For our family, the origin of our exploration of the Lewis and Clark Trail came on Christmas Day 1975.... We got to discussing where we wanted to spend the Fourth of July to celebrate our country's 200th birthday. I...suggested Lemhi Pass. Our motivations were to see what Lewis saw, to learn, and to be together as a family.... And in the process we saw our country. My daughter wrote in her journal, 'In my family, summers are not just a break from school but an adventure into America.'"
By preserving our cultural and natural heritage and making our communities vibrant places to visit, the "adventure into America" will become the adventure of a lifetime. Thank you.