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President Bush Delivers Address on the Environment

Aired May 30, 2001 - 12:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center in Atlanta.

We are going to briefly interrupt "BURDEN OF PROOF" and take you live to Sequoia National Park, where President Bush is speaking and announcing his commitment to the environment today. He has been criticized somewhat for some of his policies. But today he is promoting initiatives to spruce up this country's national parks.

So we will listen in for a moment.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... three really fine public servants: Cal Dooley, Gary Condit and George Radanovich.

Thank you all so much for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

I, too, want to thank the board members of the Sequoia Fund and the board members of the Sequoia Natural History Association. Thank you for working with these fine public stewards to make sure this park offers its beauty for every citizen who wants to come here.

Any day that you can take in sights like these is a great day, and it's been a great day for me. This place leaves each of us with a feeling of incredible humility. That's one reason why it's so important.

In our daily lives, we're surrounded by things of our own making -- the buildings and machines and goods we create ourselves. There's much to admire and appreciate in the works of man. But come here, and you're reminded of a design that is not our own.

Here we find a grandeur beyond our power to equal. We're standing amongst the largest tress on Earth and some of the very oldest. When the Mayflower arrived on the eastern shore of this continent, the great sequoias were already here.

When the seal was fixed on the Magna Carta, the great sequoias were already here. They were here when the Roman Empire fell, and they were here when the Roman Empire rose. And had Christ himself stood on this spot, he would have been in the shade of this very tree. When men and women walk into a setting like this, we must walk with care. Of all the forces on Earth, only man is capable of cutting down a sequoia, and only man is capable of fully appreciating its beauty. And fortunately, more than a century ago, the government of the United States stayed the hand of all who would destroy this place and these trees. That decision by President Benjamin Harrison reflects an ethic of respect for the natural world that was once shared only by a few, but is now a basic commitment of American life.

Our duty is to use the land well and sometimes not to use it at all. This is our responsibility as citizens, but more than that, it is our calling as stewards of the Earth. Good stewardship of the environment is not just a personal responsibility, it is a public value. Americans are united in the belief that we must preserve our natural heritage and safeguard the land around us.

This belief is affirmed in our laws. With more than 80 million acres under protection, our national park system has set the standard for the world in preserving natural lands. We've given a reprieve to our national symbol, the bald eagle. Through cooperative efforts with wildlife biologists and private land owners, the condors are back in the wilds of California. Americans have come to understand that other creatures need room to roam and places to live.

Other laws express this same commitment. Our lakes and rivers are much cleaner than they were 30 years ago. Firm limits on toxic emissions have greatly improved the quality of the air we breathe. And I'm proud that it was my dad's signature on the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 that helped reduce acid rain and urban air pollutions.

Over the last three decades, nearly 3,000 hazardous waste facilities have been closed. We made much progress in ridding our towns and cities of brownfields, and even more progress will be made over the next several years.

And the Environmental Protection Agency has begun or completed cleanups in more than 90 percent of the sites targeted under Superfund. This marks tremendous progress in protecting our nation's environment. It's not the doing of a single party or the branch of government or a state or community or group. It's been the work of presidents and congresses and governors as well as land owners, environmentalists and local leaders. All have responded to the appeal of conscience and the clear wishes of the American people.

Today, I continue to speak about my conservation policies and the principles that will guide them. These polices reflect the vital role we each play as stewards of our lands and the federal government's part as steward of nearly one-third of the American land mass.

And they reflect that while we've made great progress, much more must be done to protect the environment. In spite of the successes of the past 30 years, at times we've seen needless conflict and policies that have done more harm than good.

Today, we must seek the best ways to achieve the common goal of leaving to posterity a nation of fresh air, clean water and natural beauty. These policies arise from the conviction that a healthy environment is a national concern and requires an active national government.

At the same time, states and localities have their own responsibilities for the environment. They have their own authority, too. And usually, they have a better grasp of the problem and what is needed to solve it. Washington has sometimes relied too much on threat and mandate from afar when it should be encouraging innovation and high standards from the people closest to the land.

My administration will adopt a new spirit of respect and cooperation because, in the end, that is the better way to protect the environment we all share, a new environmentalism for the 21st century. Citizens and private groups play a crucial role. Just as we share an ethic of stewardship, we must share in the work of stewardship. Our challenge is to work in partnership. We must protect the claims of nature while also protecting the legal rights of property owners. We will succeed not by antagonizing one another, but by inviting all to play a part in the solutions we seek.

For the federal government, good stewardship begins right here in this and the hundreds of other park areas across America. Washington has a very clear and direct responsibility for these lands. Yet many parks have gone years without receiving the kind of care and upkeep the American people expect. More than 287 million people now visit our national parks each year. At the same time, however, many of our parks have gone neglected.

So today, I am announcing the National Parks Legacy Project. My administration will make a major investment in our national parks to preserve the legacy of protection for future generations. We will spend $5 billion over five years to clean up the backlog in maintenance and make our parks more inviting and accessible to all citizens.

We're the first administration to request full funding for our country's land and water conservation fund to provide needed dollars to help local folks meet conservation concerns.

This park is a model to follow.

The Park Service is nearing completion of a project to remove structures once thought necessary, but which now threaten to damage the roots of the sequoias. In my budget, I propose spending $1.5 billion to help complete this project. Working with the local community and the Sequoia Natural History Association, we will offer the young and old alike an opportunity to learn more about the wonders of nature. In all our parks we want visitors to feel welcome and to enjoy the experiences that nature and history have to offer.

Future renovations will make this more possible by adding, for example, many more miles of carefully drawn hiking paths. Here, again, Sequoia is a model allowing for more visitors without destroying the very things that draw people here -- the scenery, the quite, the animals left unharmed in their natural habitat, and we will leave them that way.

Our park lands are home to thousands of species...

ALLEN: President Bush speaking at Sequoia National Park.

The president has received controversy for some of his environmental policies. Notably, when he issued his national energy strategy, he called for an emphasis on developing additional oil sources and more coal and nuclear power. Well, he is combating that with his presence here today at the Sequoia National Park, where he says any day you can take in sights like this is a great day. And he has had great day.

He reemphasized his support for his National Parks Legacy Project, which aims to spend $5 billion over five years on a heavy maintenance backlog.

We will continue to follow along as the president travels. John King is traveling with the president. So keep it here for more throughout the day.

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