President Obama Signs Major Public Lands Protections

Uploaded by whitehouse on 30.03.2009

KEN SALAZAR: It is an honor to be here
today with all of you who worked so hard for so many years to
write this new chapter for America's treasured landscapes.
Over the last two centuries, America's best ideas for
protecting our vast lands and open spaces have often arrived
while our country has faced it's greatest trials.
It was in the midst of our nation's bloodiest conflict, the
Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln set aside the
lands that are now known as Yosemite National Park.
It was at the dawn of the 20th century, with our cities and
industries growing and our open lands and watersheds
disappearing, that President Teddy Roosevelt expanded our
national parks and set aside the world's largest systems of lands
dedicated to wildlife conservation, the National
Wildlife Refuge System.
And it was in the darkest days, in the darkest days of the Great
Depression, that President Franklin Roosevelt put three
million young Americans to work in the Civilian Conservation
They built the trails, the campgrounds, the parks, and
conservation projects that we so enjoy today.
In these moments, when our national character is most
tested, we rightly seek to protect that which fuels our
For America's national character, our optimism, our
dreams, our shared stories, are all rooted in our landscapes.
We each have the places that we love.
For me, it is the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.
It is the lands my family has farmed for five generations.
The waters of the San Antonio River, the snows on the Sangre
de Cristo Mountains.
As Americans, we are all defined most by our people and our
President Barack Obama is one of those Americans.
As a young boy, he discovered the beautiful landscapes of
America with his grandmother, his mother, and his sister.
They drove from Seattle down the coast of California.
They saw the Grand Canyon, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes,
and then, they saw Yellowstone.
Those experiences, those places, binds us together as one people.
Yes, we are in a time of deep uncertainty and economic pain,
but for Americans, moments of crisis are opportunities to
rebuild, renew, and restore the places we cherish.
We now are at such a moment in our nation's history.
A transformational moment, a new beginning, led by a president
who tells us it is time once again for America's best ideas.
It is time once again to create for our children and our
grandchildren a legacy of stewardship on the scale of the
challenges that we face.
Our population has nearly doubled since John Kennedy as
our president created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in
the 1960s, and although we have made progress, our open lands,
wetlands and wildlife are still disappearing as we have now gone
over 300 million people.
But in a few minutes, President Barack Obama will sign
legislation that represents one of the most significant
protections for our treasured landscapes in a generation.
He will do so less than a hundred days into his
This legislation will put into law the 26 million acre National
Landscape Conservation System within the Bureau of Land
It will add two million acres of new wilderness across the entire
It will preserve one thousand new miles of wild and scenic
rivers, and it will better protect some of America's most
special places, from Oregon's Mount Hood to the dinosaur
tracks of New Mexico and Virginia's wild forests.
This bill is a Herculean first step forward in President Obama
and the nation's agenda for open lands.
It would not have happened, it would not have happened without
the patient and tireless efforts of the members of the United
States Senate and House of Representatives.
This bill represents the best of what America has to offer:
Hard-working citizens who are saving historic sites in their
communities so that we never forget our past.
Tribal leaders who are here today, who are forging solutions
to complex and long-standing natural resource challenges that
they face.
Mayors and county commissioners who are protecting the back
country for hunters and anglers and hikers.
Business leaders who know that good stewardship makes good
economic sense because it builds economies, and the many members,
including the leadership of the House and Senate who are here
today, Republicans and Democrats together, including our great
leader of the Senate Harry Reid, and the Speaker of the House of
Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and all the leaders who are here
assembled today from both chambers, because without their
leadership and their persistence, persistence time
and time again, we would not be here today at this moment.
This historic legislation lays the foundation for the agenda
for America's treasured landscapes that President Obama
has asked me to work on on his behalf and on the nation's
I am proud this bill is here today, I am proud of the
bipartisan work that went into this legislation, and I am
honored to introduce to all of you the President of the United
States of America, Barack Obama.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Thank you everybody.
Thank you very much. Please have a seat. Thank you, Please.
Thank you so much, Thank you. Please everybody be seated.
Well, thank you so much, Ken, for that
extraordinary introduction and for the work that you and your
team are undertaking at the Department of the Interior.
We're going to add a little bit to your plate today as a
consequence of this extraordinary piece of
I want to thank all the members of the legislature who helped to
craft this.
Many of them are on the stage here today.
Obviously I've got to single out the Speaker of the House, Nancy
Pelosi, for her extraordinary leadership, but also our Leader
in the Senate, Harry Reid, who worked so diligently on this
bill and made sure that it got done.
And so please give all of these legislators a big round of
If you'll indulge me, there are just a couple
other people I want to acknowledge: Nancy Sutley, who
is the Chair of our Council on Environmental Quality, who is
Where's Nancy?
There she is, right in front.
Jane Lubchenco, who is the Administrator of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Please, Jane -- thrilled to have her.
A couple of great friends from Indian Nation --
President Joe Shirley of Navaho Nation, who is here.
Go ahead, Joe, stand up.
And Tribal Chairman Robert Bear, of the Duck Valley
Shoshone-Paiute Tribes.
Thank you so much.
It is fitting that we meet on a day like this.
Winter's hardships are slowly giving way to spring, and our
thoughts naturally tend to turn to the outdoors.
We emerge from the shelter offered by home and work, and we
look around and we're reminded that the most valuable things in
this life are those things that we already possess.
As Americans, we possess few blessings greater than the vast
and varied landscapes that stretch the breadth of our
Our lands have always provided great bounty -- food and shelter
for the first Americans, for settlers and pioneers; the raw
materials that grew our industry; the energy that powers
our economy.
What these gifts require in return is our wise and
responsible stewardship.
As our greatest conservationist President, Teddy Roosevelt, put
it almost a century ago, "I recognize the right and duty of
this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our
land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob,
by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
That's the spirit behind the bipartisan legislation I'm
signing today -- legislation among the most important in
decades to protect, preserve, and pass down our nation's most
treasured landscapes to future generations.
Many senators and congressmen here deserve enormous credit for
making this bill possible.
I'm grateful to all their hard work.
As I mentioned before, Harry Reid made this a top priority.
He made sure this was the first bill the Senate passed this
This day would not be possible without his tireless dedication
to protecting our treasured lands.
This legislation -- just to give you a sense of the scope -- this
legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests,
rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas
for granted; but rather we will set them aside and guard their
sanctity for everyone to share.
That's something all Americans can support.
And that's why so much of this legislation, some of it decades
in the making, has the backing of Americans from every walk of
life and corner of this country.
Ranchers and fishermen, small business owners,
environmentalists, conservative Republicans and liberal
Democrats on the local, state and federal levels -- all united
around the idea that there should be places that we must
preserve; all doing the hard work of seeking common ground to
protect the parks and other places that we cherish.
We're talking about places like Colorado, where this bill will
realize a vision 35 years in the making by protecting the wild
back country of Rocky Mountain National Park, which attracts
3 million visitors a year.
Folks in communities around this park know they don't have to
choose between economic and environmental concerns; the
tourism that drives their local economy depends on good
stewardship of their local environment.
And year after year, these communities have worked together
with members of Congress in an attempt to ensure that Rocky
Mountain National Park will forever remain as breathtaking
as it is today.
And that is what this bill does from coast to coast.
It protects treasured places from the Appalachians of
Virginia and West Virginia to Michigan's Upper Peninsula; from
the canyons of Idaho to the sandstone cliffs of Utah; from
the Sierra Nevadas in California to the Badlands of Oregon.
It designates more than 2 million acres across nine states
as wilderness; almost as much as was designated over the past
eight years combined.
It creates thousands of miles of new scenic, historic, and
recreational trails, cares for our historic battlefields,
strengthens our National Park System.
It safeguards more than 1,000 miles of our rivers, protects
watersheds and cleans up polluted groundwater, defends
our oceans and Great Lakes, and will revitalize our fisheries,
returning fish to rivers that have not seen them in decades.
And it wisely faces our future challenges with regard to water.
This bill assesses how growth and climate change will affect
our access to water resources, especially in the West and
Southwest, and it includes solutions to complex and
long-simmering water disputes.
It's hard to overstate the real and measurable impact this will
have on people's lives -- people like Frank Chee Willetto, a
Navajo code talker in World War II, who's joined us today.
And because of this legislation, Frank, along with 80,000 others
in the Navajo Nation, will have access to clean running water
for the very first time.
That's something worth applauding.
Thank you for your service.
When coupled with the Recovery Act, which makes an
historic $3 billion investment creating jobs that will restore
and protect our landscapes and our ecosystems, preserve our
national monuments, retrofit our facilities for energy efficiency
and renewable energy-- taken together, today's legislation
takes another step toward fulfilling Teddy Roosevelt's
vision for this land that we love.
It's a vision that sees America's great wilderness as a
place where what was and what is and what will be -- all are the
same; a place where memories are lived and relived; a place where
Americans both young and young at heart can freely experience
the spirit of adventure that has always been at the heart of the
rugged character of America.
Now, the legislation I'm signing today also makes progress on
another front for which many Americans have long waited.
The Christopher and Dana Reeve's Paralysis Act is the first piece
of comprehensive legislation specifically aimed at addressing
the challenges faced by Americans living with paralysis.
Many folks and organizations from across the
disability community worked hard to get this passed, and we
are grateful to each of you for bringing us that much closer to
providing all Americans with disabilities a full, fair and
equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
This act creates new coordinated research activities through the
National Institutes of Health that will connect the best minds
and best practices from the best labs in the country, and focus
their endeavors through collaborative scientific
research into the cure for paralysis, saving effort, money,
and, most importantly, time.
It promotes enhanced rehabilitation services for
paralyzed Americans, helping develop better equipment and
technology that will allow them to live full and independent
lives free from unnecessary barriers.
And it will work to improve the quality of life for all those
who live with paralysis, no matter what the cause.
That's the mission of the Christopher and Dana Reeve
In the lobby of their facility in New Jersey sits Christopher's
empty wheelchair.
And his son, Matthew Reeve, was once asked if the sight of it
ever saddened him, and he replied no.
He said, "Empty chairs -- that was Dad's goal," he said.
"We hope there will be many more of them."
Matthew is here with us today.
And the legislation I'm about to sign makes solid progress toward
the realization of that hope and the promise of a brighter
All in all, this legislation is that rare end product of what
happens when Americans of all parties and places come together
in common purpose to consider something more than the politics
of the moment.
It's the very idea at the heart of this country: that each
generation has a responsibility to secure this nation's promise
for the next.
And by signing this bill into law, that's what we're doing
So -- is Matthew here, by the way?
Matthew, come on up.
Let's sign this bill buddy.
Let's sign this bill.
(Camera's clicking.)
There we go.