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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 21, 2005

President Honors Environmental Youth Award Recipients
The East Room

President's Remarks

3:27 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. I'm sorry we're not out in the gardens today, but a pretty good place to have a visit, anyway, isn't it? The East Room. We're glad you're here. I want to welcome you as we honor some fine young stewards of our environment, and to recognize their achievements.

All of you have given your time and energy to preserving our natural spaces. You're setting such a fine example, and we appreciate the example. And today is our chance to tell you how proud we are of your good work.

I want to thank Steve Johnson, who is the Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. I put this good man's nomination in front of the United States Senate for a reason -- because he's plenty capable of doing the job, and now is the time for the United States Senate to confirm him. (Applause.) I'm proud that his wife, Debbie, is here, and Matt.

I want to thank my friend, Congressman Vito Fossella, who has joined us. Congressman, thank you for being here. (Applause.) We welcome all the EPA regional administrators, particularly those administrators from the great state of Texas. (Laughter.)

This week is National Volunteer Week, and we honor the 64 million Americans who volunteer, and encourage others to join them. Since taking office, I have asked Americans to take an active role in serving their communities by dedicating 4,000 hours, or two years, over the course of their lives to helping others. In order to encourage people to help, I started the USA Freedom Corps, and that's a website to match potential volunteers with opportunities to volunteer at the local level. And if you want to find out more about the website, the USA Freedom Corps website, go to

The 30 young men and women we honor here today in the White House answered the call to service. They know they have a responsibility to be citizens, not spectators, and that by serving a cause larger than themselves, communities grow stronger. One of the greatest responsibilities in a free society is responsible stewardship of our natural environment. All of you have taken that duty seriously. You have set a clear and strong example, and you're inspiring others to do their part.

Tomorrow I'm going to Tennessee, in honor of Earth Day, to help volunteers restore the trails at Cades Cove. I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty. (Laughter.) Looking forward to getting outside of Washington. (Laughter.)

As volunteers, you've put your talents to good use. In Cairo, Georgia, you set up a science camp to promote recycling. In St. Paul, Virginia, you helped restore a newly-named wetland and made it an outdoor classroom. In Oklahoma and California, you cleaned up debris around local creeks. You built nesting boxes to protect local birds in Staten Island, New York. You improved trout habitats in Hyrum, Utah. You started a project for the Fender's blue butterfly in Salem, Oregon. You spearheaded a public education program to protect a stream near Cleveland, Ohio. You planted a beech tree at an elementary school in Middletown, Rhode Island. And you taught schoolchildren about groundwaters in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Each of these acts touched a community, and together they are improving our nation. All of you are meeting your responsibility to our country's natural spaces, and our government is doing the same. America's air and water are cleaner today than they were in 2001. My budget for the coming year fulfills my commitment in 2001 to spend $4.9 billion over five years to improve our national parks, and to make our parks more inviting and accessible to all Americans.

We're implementing the Clear Skies rule to cut power plant emissions by 70 percent. Under the farm bill I signed in 2002, we will provide $40 billion over 10 years to help our farmers and ranchers protect wetlands, water quality, and wildlife habitats. I've pledged to restore, improve, and protect 3 millions of wetlands over the next five years. To safeguard our forests and woodlands against fire damage, I've signed the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. And since I took office, the Departments of Interior and Agriculture have removed hazardous fuels from more than 10 million acres of federal land.

Across America, we're working with state and local governments to accelerate the cleanup and redevelopment of old industrial sites. We're working hard to improve our environment, and so are you. Each of you here today has worked hard. You've been idealistic in the right way, and you've been dedicated. I know your parents are proud of you, your communities are proud of you, and so is your President. (Applause.)

So it is now my great honor to welcome the 2005 winners of the President's Environmental Youth Awards. The Acting Administrator will do the duties.

(The awards are presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, thank you all for coming. We're proud to have you here in the White House. I want to welcome and congratulate our students again. I really want to welcome your parents, too. You've done a good job. And I want to thank your teachers. Teaching is a noble profession. (Applause.) We hope you enjoy the White House as much as Laura and I do.

God bless you all. Welcome. (Applause.)

END 3:43 P.M. EDT

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