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Remarks on Signing the Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993 in Denver

August 13, 1993

Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Senator Campbell, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be back in Colorado. I'll be back tomorrow and the next day and the next day. I really wanted to come here for this bill signing because not only of the wilderness, and it's important to me personally, but also because this effort reflects what I think our country needs more of: people who are willing to go after something and stay after it as long as it takes, and people in the end who are willing to sit down and reason together and work together and feel that they're stronger when they reach agreement rather than weaker. I hope, as Senator Brown characterized this process, I'd like to bring it to more of the problems our great Nation faces, although I hope none of them take 12 years to resolve. [Laughter]

I do want to thank all of the members of the Colorado delegation, without regard to party, for their work here. I especially thank Congressman Skaggs, my good friend Pat Schroeder, and Senator Campbell, and Senator Brown. And there are others who are not here. I want to say a special word of thanks to my friend of now more than 20 years, Senator Gary Hart, and to Tim Wirth, who has done a magnificent job now in the State Department taking his environmental passion global. Even when I get bad press, Tim Wirth gets good press. He has been almost universally acclaimed for the breath of fresh air he has brought to the efforts of the United States to promote responsible policies to preserve and enhance life throughout this planet. And I'm glad to be here with him today. And I want you to know that even though he's not a Senator from Colorado anymore, he is serving the people of Colorado in an exemplary way.

Almost 100 years ago to the day, not far from here, another visitor to Colorado was moved by what she saw, and she wrote a poem. She wrote of spacious skies and fruited plains and amber waves of grain. On that day Katherine Lee Bates described America the Beautiful. Today we return to reaffirm the beauty and the majesty of the land that she fell in love with and that we all hold dear. Today I come back to sign H.R. 631, the Colorado Wilderness Act, which designates a total of 612,000 acres, 19 separate areas in our national forests, as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Act also protects five areas totaling over 150,000 acres under management plans that are slightly less restrictive but still important. It protects rugged and roadless expanses, sets aside glacier-chiseled valleys and jagged peaks, preserves the calm of still mountain meadows and the cathedrals of magic old-growth groves.

The names of the places we are preserving today provide more than ample proof of their majesty. Sangre de Cristo range is a haunting and painful image of a barren peak washed in sunset colors. Fossil Ridge speaks of wide-eyed children stumbling upon ancient relics, hopefully not as they turned out in "Jurassic Park." [Laughter] Oh Be Joyful is surely a peak that will be noticed on any topographical map.

At the same time as it protects these treasures, the Act releases about 115,000 acres of Forest Service lands in Colorado for other purposes, balancing the goal of preserving our environment with the need to provide for a healthy economy for the people who live and work here.

It's been a dozen years since the last legislation designating wilderness in Colorado, a dozen since an administration has been committed to expanding wilderness delegations. In those years wilderness designations were questioned by those who wonder why these things must be set apart and saved. We save our wilderness because it reflects the diversity of the gifts of God that go with the diversity of our people and our culture and because many, many of us believe that its sheer grandeur offers us the clearest evidence we have here on Earth of divine providence. The great conservationist John Muir said, "Everyone needs beauty," and that's why we save wilderness.

I'd like to close today with a short message from Wallace Stegner to acknowledge his passing this past spring and to acknowledge the wilderness area of which he wrote so eloquently. "The remainder and the reassurance that is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in 10 years set foot on it," he wrote. "It is good for us when we are young because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there. Important, that is, simply as an idea." That idea, an essentially American idea, is embodied in this act of Congress. I thank all of you who made it possible. And I am proud to have the opportunity to sign it into law.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:35 p.m. at Stapleton Airport. H.R. 631, approved August 13, was assigned Public Law No. 103-77.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing the Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993 in Denver Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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