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President Clinton: Celebrating the Legacy of Lewis and Clark and Preserving America’s Natural Treasures

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President Clinton: Celebrating the Legacy of Lewis and Clark and Preserving America’s Natural Treasures

Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Today, President Clinton will highlight the importance of preserving America’s natural and historic heritage by creating or expanding eight national monuments, including two along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, where the Lewis and Clark Expedition was launched nearly 200 years ago, the President also will commemorate the efforts of the explorers by granting posthumous promotions to William Clark, Sacagawea, and York, all key contributors to the success of the Expedition. The President will be joined by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, historian Stephen Ambrose, and descendants and representatives of the explorers.

Celebrating the Legacy of Lewis and Clark. Today, President Clinton will recognize the achievements of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its significance in American history. Nearly 200 years ago, under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent close to three years traversing America’s Western frontier. Aided by their Corps of Discovery, they traveled 8,000 miles, hauling heavy equipment into treacherous terrain, and mapping rivers, mountains, and prairies. They navigated and named two-thirds of the American continent, filled their journals with detailed images of the natives they met, and wrote the first scientific descriptions of nearly 300 plants and animals. Their adventure excited the nation with amazing discoveries. The actions the President will take today recognize three individuals who made valuable contributions to the expedition, and will ensure the preservation of some of the extraordinary landscapes explored by Lewis and Clark.

Recognizing Undaunted Courage. President Clinton will posthumously honor three members of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery in recognition of their courage and contributions to our nation’s history:

  • On the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense, and by congressional authorization, President Clinton will posthumously present William Clark his rightful military commission by promoting him from Lieutenant of the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers to Captain in the Regular Army, with an effective date of March 26, 1804. On the expedition, Lewis and Clark shared equally the responsibilities of command, and although President Jefferson sought the rank of Captain for Clark, the promotion was denied by the War Department and Clark was instead given the rank of Lieutenant.
  • The President will present the title of Honorary Sergeant, Regular Army to Sacagawea, a young Shoshone woman who served as Lewis and Clark’s guide. Sacagawea was the only woman to accompany the explorers to the Pacific Ocean and back, and her interpretation and navigation skills proved invaluable to the expedition.
  • The President will present the title of Honorary Sergeant, Regular Army to York, Clark’s personal slave who accompanied the expedition party. York was the first black man to cross the continent, and although relatively unknown, was instrumental in the success of the exploration.

Preserving America’s Treasures. Building on his commitment to preserving America’s treasures and cultural history, President Clinton will create seven new national monuments – two along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail – and expand one existing monument. This action, taken after careful review and extensive public input, will help safeguard the valuable ecology and history of these irreplaceable landscapes for future generations. The Proclamations signed by the President will establish as the overriding purpose of the new monuments the preservation of their unique natural and historic values. Specific protections may vary, but generally the lands are protected from future mining and other activities that would degrade them. Valid existing rights are preserved. The sites are:

  • Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. The Upper Missouri River Breaks is in central Montana and spans 149 miles of the Upper Missouri River, the adjacent Breaks country, and portions of Arrow Creek, Antelope Creek, and the Judith River. It covers approximately 377,346 acres of federal land, including the Missouri Breaks country north of the Missouri River. The Breaks is the only major portion of the Missouri River to be protected and preserved in its natural, free-flowing state. It is also the premier segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

In 1805, Lewis and Clark spent three weeks traversing the area, which encompasses an array of habitats including rolling grasslands, white cliffs, rugged badlands, and remnants of ancient cottonwood groves. Their journals describe the fascinating geology of the river banks, the Native American culture, and a vast range of wildlife. Lewis wrote, "The hills and river cliffs which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance…it seemed as if those scenes of visionary enchantment would never end."

  • Pompeys Pillar National Monument. Pompeys Pillar is on 51 acres of federal land along the Yellowstone River in central Montana, 28 miles east of Billings. Its geologic distinction as the only major sandstone formation in the area has made it a celebrated landmark and an outstanding observation point for more than 11,000 years of human occupation.

Pompeys Pillar is like a sandstone history book. On July 25, 1806, Clark carved his name and date into the pillar's sandstone surface. The pillar also bears Native American drawings and other historical inscriptions. Clark originally named the rock after his nickname for Sacagawea’s infant son. His journal entry described it as "...a remarkable rock [with] the most extensive view in every direction."

  • Carrizo Plain National Monument. Carrizo Plain is located in central California, just off the southwest edge of the San Joaquin Valley, between San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield. It covers approximately 204,107 acres of federal land, with elevations ranging from 2,000 to 2,500 feet above sea level. Dramatically bisected by the San Andreas Fault zone, the area is the largest undeveloped remnant of this ecosystem, providing critical habitats for the long-term survival of the many endemic plant and animal species that inhabit the area.
  • Sonoran Desert National Monument. The Sonoran Desert National Monument is located in south central Arizona, approximately 60 miles from Phoenix. The area is a magnificent example of untrammeled Sonoran Desert landscape. It encompasses a functioning desert ecosystem with an extraordinary array of biological, scientific, and historic resources. The most biologically diverse of the North American deserts, the monument consists of distinct mountain ranges separated by wide valleys, and includes large saguaro cactus forest communities that provide excellent habitats for a wide range of wildlife species. The outer boundaries of the area encompass approximately 486,149 acres of federal land.
  • Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is located in north central New Mexico near Santa Fe. It is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes, as well as other cultural and biological objects of interest. Rich in pumice, ash, and tuff deposits, the light-colored cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of explosive volcanic eruptions that occurred between six and seven million years ago. The monument includes approximately 4,148 acres of federal land, and elevations within the monument range from about 5,560 feet to about 6,760 feet above sea level.
  • Minidoka Internment National Monument. The Minidoka Internment National Monument is located in south-central Idaho, in Jerome County approximately 20 miles northeast of Twin Falls. The monument includes portions of the Minidoka Relocation Center, a World War II-era Japanese-American internment camp. The monument includes approximately 73 acres of federal land currently managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.
  • U.S. Virgin Island Coral Reef National Monument. The U.S. Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument includes 12,708 acres of federal submerged lands within the 3-mile belt off of St. John, including Hurricane Hole and areas north and south of St. John. The area contains all the elements of a Caribbean tropical marine ecosystem. This designation furthers the protection of the scientific objects included in the Virgin Islands National Park.
  • Buck Island Reef National Monument (expansion). The Buck Island Reef National Monument expansion includes 18,135 marine acres of federal submerged lands off of St. Croix, within the 3-mile belt around Buck Island. Buck Island Reef National Monument was established on December 28, 1961 by Presidential proclamation just north of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 1961 proclamation describes Buck Island and its adjoining shoals, rocks, and undersea coral reef formations as "one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea," which are of "great scientific interest and educational value to students of the sea and to the public."


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