[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[August 26, 1995]
[Pages 1265-1266]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



The President's Radio Address
August 26, 1995

    Good morning. There's an old Native American saying that goes: In 
all our deliberations we must take into account the well-being of the 
seventh generation to follow. The wisdom of those words has come alive 
to me during my family's Wyoming vacation.
    During the past week and a half, Chelsea, Hillary, and I have been 
vacationing in two of our Nation's most spectacular national treasures, 
Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We've been hiking, horseback 
riding, rafting on the Snake River. We've seen Old Faithful, the canyon 
falls, and the young wolves that are being reintroduced into 
Yellowstone. We've seen buffalo, moose, elk, eagles, osprey, red hawks. 
No bears yet, but we're still looking. We've seen breathtaking 
mountains, lakes, streams, and meadows. And all of this belongs to you, 
the American people, for all time to come.
    I've also seen lots of Americans, young, old, and in-between, from 
all over our country in these parks. Mostly I've seen families, hard-
working families who can afford these wonders of the world because these 
parks belong to them. So I'm more grateful than ever that those who came 
before us saw fit to preserve this land for the enjoyment of future 
generations of Americans. That was the intent of Congress when it 
established the National Park Service 79 years ago today. I can think of 
few things that mean more to the national life of our country than our 
national parks.
    Last year, more than 270 million visitors made their way to places 
like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Grand Canyon National Parks, and to 
urban treasures like Golden Gate in California, Cuyahoga in Ohio, and 
Gateway in New York. They came to big parks and to smaller ones, like 
the one in my hometown, Hot Springs National Park.
    Our 369 national parks aren't simply aesthetically pleasing; they're 
also important to the economies of their communities. For example, in 
1994, visitors to Yellowstone, the world's first national park, pumped 
more than $643 million into the local economy, creating more than 12,000 
jobs. Visitors to Big Bend National Park, along the Texas-Mexican 
border, spent more than $77 million while creating 1,544 local jobs.
    But while the parks have been good for local economies, many of them 
have fallen into disrepair. So if we want them to be there for our 
children in the 21st century we've got to turn this around. But there's 
a right way and

[[Page 1266]]

a wrong way to do it. The wrong way is to say that this is an investment 
no longer worth making, to close the parks and sell them off to the 
highest bidder. Some people want to do that, but it wouldn't be in faith 
with the kind of commonsense values that have made our country great and 
the kind of common ground we've had over our national parks throughout 
the 20th century.
    That's why I strongly oppose the budget cuts that were proposed 
earlier this year by the congressional majority. They could have forced 
the closing of more than 200 national parks and recreation areas. The 
right way to help our parks is through the kind of sensible reforms our 
administration has proposed.
    First, we have to put our parks on sound financial footing by 
keeping park fees that the citizens pay in the parks. Most visitors to 
our national parks believe their fees are used for park improvements, 
but they aren't. That will change under our reforms. Many visitors tell 
us they want their money to stay in the parks and they'd even pay a 
little more if they knew that was the case. Well, that's what we propose 
to do, keep the fees in the parks.
    The second thing we want to do is to make it easier for our parks to 
form partnerships with people in the private sector who want to invest 
money to preserve our natural heritage, not to destroy it.
    And thirdly, we want to change the out-of-date contracting policies 
that keep the concession fees paid by businesses operating in the parks 
unreasonably low. We've got to change that because those who make a 
profit from the private businesses in our parks should pay a fair amount 
for the privilege, so that they can make a profit and help us to 
maintain our parks.
    I'm also concerned about activities on land that belongs to the 
American people which are being used for profit in ways that could 
damage our national parks. For example, just 2\1/2\ miles from 
Yellowstone Park there's a proposal to build a big gold mine. Before 
that mine can be approved, it must meet the highest standards in an 
environmental impact statement. And yesterday I declared a 2-year 
moratorium on any new mining claims in the area near the northeast 
corner of Yellowstone Park.
    Unfortunately, we're still burdened with an 1872 mining law which 
allows these claims to be staked and mined while giving virtually 
nothing back to the American people who make it possible. We have to do 
everything we can to protect parks like Yellowstone. They're more 
priceless than gold.
    Finally, if we want to maintain our national heritage for our 
children and our grandchildren, we have to do more than preserve our 
national parks; we've got to preserve our environment. Right now we face 
a lot of pressure to pollute the environment and to go back on our 
commitment to keeping it safe and clean and healthy. The House recently 
voted to gut environmental and public health protections in the name of 
regulatory reform. Some in the Senate tried to do the same. They were 
willing to put at risk the safety of our air, our food, our drinking 
water, the water we fish and swim in, for short-term financial gains for 
a few.
    The budget bill the House passed would cut environmental enforcement 
by 50 percent, virtually bringing to a halt Federal enforcement of the 
Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and it would stop toxic waste clean-
ups. This would be a terrible mistake, and I'm determined to fight it 
with vetoes, if necessary.
    For a long time now, the American people have stood together on 
common ground to preserve our environment. At the beginning of this 
century, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, began a fervent call for 
conservation. In 1905, he said, ``There can be nothing in the world more 
beautiful than a Yosemite, the groves of giant sequoias and redwoods, 
the canyon of the Colorado, the canyon of Yellowstone, its three Tetons. 
And our people should see to it that they are preserved for their 
children and their children's children forever.''
    Well, I second that emotion. And after spending the last week in 
Wyoming, I have an even deeper commitment to fulfilling it. So let's end 
this century by meeting the challenge Teddy Roosevelt set for us at the 
beginning. We've made a lot of progress in the protection of our 
environment and our national heritage. But the future can be even 
brighter. Do we need reforms? Yes. Should we reverse course? Not on your 
life. It's up to us.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 9:40 p.m. on August 25 at the 
Rockefeller residence in Jackson Hole, WY, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. 
on August 26.