President Clinton and Vice President Gore: Protecting America’s Natural Treasures
January 5, 2001
President Clinton and Vice President Gore have strengthened protection for millions of acres of federal lands, and saved and restored natural treasures from Florida’s Everglades to California’s ancient redwoods. This Administration has helped hundreds of communities across the country protect parks, farms, and other local green spaces, and forged partnerships with landowners to restore and preserve the natural values of America’s private lands. With today’s action to protect roadless areas within our national forests, the Clinton Administration has protected more land in the continental United States than any Administration since Theodore Roosevelt.
At the beginning of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated our nation to "the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us." At the dawn of a new century, President Clinton and Vice President Gore are fulfilling this vision, and ensuring that future generations of Americans carry on this legacy in the years ahead.
America’s Natural Areas At Risk
In 1992, many of America’s natural treasures were at risk of development. A massive gold mine proposed not far from Yellowstone National Park threatened the world’s first national park with toxic runoff and other environmental harm. Many were calling for more oil drilling in sensitive coastal areas and in areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. More than half of the historic wetlands in the continental United States had been lost.
Preserved and Protected Millions of Acres of Parks, Monuments, and Wilderness
From the Red Rock Canyons of Utah to the Florida Everglades, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have preserved millions of acres of national parks, national monuments, and wilderness areas. The Clinton-Gore Administration has also launched major reforms to reverse the loss of precious wetlands, setting a goal of a net increase of 100,000 acres of wetlands a year by 2005. The President defended Yellowstone National Park from potential toxic runoff from a proposed gold mine near the Park’s boundary, and acquired land near the Park to expanded critical habitat for bison.
The Administration has also strongly opposed efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the President vetoed legislation that would have opened the refuge to new exploration. President Clinton worked with Congress to provide dedicated and protected funding for conservation and preservation programs, including his Lands Legacy initiative. The agreement will nearly double our investment in these programs, making it the largest annual investment in protecting our green and open spaces since President Roosevelt set our nation on the path of conservation nearly a century ago.
Creating Monuments for All Time
The Antiquities Act allows the President to create national monuments on federal land to protect "objects of historic and scientific interest." President Theodore Roosevelt first used the Act to create the Grand Canyon National Monument – which later became the Grand Canyon National Park. President Clinton has employed the Antiquities Act to protect more land in the lower 48 states than any President in history, creating or expanding 14 national monuments.
Defending the World’s First National Park
Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872, is known around the world for its spectacular wildlife and geysers. But a massive gold mine proposed not far from the park threatened Yellowstone with toxic runoff and other environmental harm. In 1996, President Clinton announced a $65 million agreement with Crown Butte Mines that halted the proposed New World Mine, ending the threat to Yellowstone.
Restoring Balance to Our National Forests
In 1994, the Clinton-Gore Administration broke the long stalemate over the Northern Spotted Owl with the Pacific Northwest Forest Plan, striking a balance between the preservation of old-growth stands and the economic needs of timber-dependent communities. Building on that success, the Administration has worked to improve management of all our national forests with a new science-based agenda that strengthens protections for water quality, wildlife and recreation while reforming logging practices to ensure sustainable supplies of timber and jobs.
Saving California’s Ancient Redwoods
When a family-owned timber company in Northern California was taken over, and the new owners accelerated the logging, the world’s largest unprotected stand of old-growth redwoods was suddenly threatened. The Clinton-Gore Administration forged an agreement, and secured $250 million in federal funds, to preserve the 7,500-acre Headwaters Forest – saving trees up to 2,000 years old and critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. The agreement also provided for a comprehensive plan to protect wildlife habitat and ensure sustainable logging on the company’s surrounding timberlands.
Restoring the Florida Everglades
In 1996, Vice President Gore launched a long-term strategy to restore an extraordinary but endangered natural treasure – the Florida Everglades. In 2000, the Administration, working with the state of Florida and all interests, including urban, agricultural, environmental and tribal representatives, successfully obtained congressional approval of the Administration’s Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This $7.8 billion plan to rebuild the region’s water system to more closely mimic nature’s design, would nearly double the amount of fresh water available in South Florida, ensuring clean, plentiful flows for the Everglades and adequate supplies for cities and farms.
Protecting and Restoring Our National Parks
On Earth Day 1999, Vice President Gore announced a long-term strategy to restore pristine skies and unspoiled views to national parks and wilderness areas by reducing pollution from power plants, cars, and factories hundreds or thousands of miles away. In several major parks, new transportation plans emphasizing the use of public transit and clean fuels are helping to reduce congestion and pollution. A clean-fueled shuttle bus system at Acadia National Park carried over 140,000 passengers in its first summer of operation, and similar shuttles will soon be introduced at Zion National Park. In Yosemite Valley, a new master plan will ease crowding and restore developed areas to natural conditions. At the Grand Canyon, new rules for sightseeing flights will help restore the natural quiet, and a planned light rail system will ease congestion. Throughout the park system, entrance and recreation fees are now being reinvested directly in the parks to help meet critical maintenance needs and put our national parks on firmer financial footing.
Conserving Threatened Forests Worldwide
Under the President's Greening the Globe initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development is increasing its budget for tropical forest and international biodiversity conservation to $100 million, an increase of almost 60%. This funding will be targeted at conservation of the world’s most endangered ecosystems and will expand cooperation with governments and private organizations to build sustainable economies while protecting these precious resources.
Protecting the California Desert
The California Desert Protection Act, signed by President Clinton in 1994, provided new or enhanced protection for 6.6 million acres of spectacular landscapes in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of Southern California. The new law created the 1.4 million-acre Mojave National Preserve; expanded Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments, and redesignated them as national parks; and provided wilderness protection for 3.6 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands.
Preserving Natural and Historic Sites
Over the past seven years, the Clinton-Gore Administration has protected scores of natural and historic sites around the country by securing over $2.5 billion through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Much of the funding has been used for federal acquisition of threatened lands, and the remainder has gone to states and communities to help them protect local green spaces. Major priorities have included completing the Appalachian Trail, protecting Civil War battlefields, and preserving New Mexico's majestic Baca Ranch. To continue these efforts in the years ahead, the President won bipartisan approval for dedicated and protected conservation funding, totaling $1.7 billion for 2001, growing to $2.4 billion in 2006. This more than doubles existing funding for these purposes. Up to two-thirds of this funding will be made available to state and local governments for their conservation efforts.
Stemming the Loss of Precious Wetlands
Wetlands play a vital role in sustaining wildlife, filtering pollutants from our water, and protecting communities from flooding. Yet more than half the historic wetlands in the continental United States have been lost. To help reverse this loss, the Administration has undertaken major reforms of wetlands regulation. New "nationwide permits" adopted this year by the Army Corps of Engineers require rigorous review of any project affecting more than half an acre of wetlands. Apart from protecting wetlands, the new permits will substantially decrease development within floodplains, preventing serious threats to life and property. In addition, the President’s Clean Water Action Plan sets a nationwide goal of a net increase 100,000 acres of wetlands a year beginning in 2005.
Forging Conservation Partnerships with Farmers
Most of the land in the United States is in private hands, and the nation’s economic and environmental well-being rests in part on keeping these lands healthy. Through a range of initiatives, the Administration has forged innovative partnerships with farmers and other landowners to encourage voluntary conservation efforts and strengthen rural economies. The Wetlands Reserve Program provides technical and financial assistance to property owners who enter into permanent or long-term agreements to restore and maintain wetlands. The Conservation Reserve Program provides annual payments to farmers who remove environmentally sensitive lands from production and improve them by restoring wildlife habitat, planting windbreaks, or creating streamside buffers. Through these programs, the Administration has helped stabilize farm income while securing conservation improvements on more than 32 million acres of private land nationwide. The President secured approximately $3 billion for the coming year to continue conservation partnerships with farmers, ranchers and other landowners.