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Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the President's Environment and Conservation Challenge Awards

December 02, 1992

Thank you all very much. Barbara and I are just delighted to welcome everyone to the White House. And let me single out a few people. I'll get in trouble on this in this distinguished group, but our Cabinet members here: Jim Watkins, who brought our National Energy Strategy through the Congress; Manuel Lujan, who's helped expand our parks and refuges; Secretary Barbara Franklin, her team's been out there pushing on the economic benefits of environmental protection. Don Atwood was to be here, but I single him out because he and the military brought an environmental ethic, I think, to everything from basic training to the conduct of a successful military operation halfway around the world in Desert Storm. Then our Secretary of Transportation was to be here, Andy Card. He's now Secretary of Transition -- [laughter] -- and as well as Secretary of Transportation.

Let me just say to this distinguished nonpartisan group that I am just determined that this transition goes smoothly and go well. And I'm absolutely convinced under Andy's leadership it is going well and will go well.

Speaking of nonpartisanship, I salute the Governor of Florida, and I'm just delighted that Lawton Chiles is with us, leader in the environmental movement; Senator Domenici was to be here -- I don't see him, but nevertheless; and Congressman Gilchrest; Congressman Porter Goss. And I want to reserve a very special thanks for Bill Reilly, our able EPA Administrator, in whom I have great confidence, a confidence that has been well rewarded, I might say, by an outstanding performance; and then for Mike Deland, the key figure here today. He's the Chairman of our Council on Environmental Quality, and I believe he's done an outstanding job. And so I'm just delighted, Barbara and I are delighted to be standing at his side.

Finally, of course, I want to salute the awards partners for making this day possible: Gil Grosvenor of the National Geographic Society, Frank Bennack of Hearst, John Johnstone of the Business Roundtable, and Kathryn Fuller of the World Wildlife Fund. And I want to thank the awards selection committee and especially my old friend Bob Stafford who's back in Washington. I'm just delighted to see him, and Gaylord, Senator Gaylord Nelson, as well. And most of all I want to send a special welcome to the guests of honor, the 9 medal and the 13 citation recipients. Congratulations to all, and I look forward to seeing the presentations.

I am not going to make a long-winded speech, because I take the Clean Air Act very seriously. [Laughter] I've had a chance, under a very different schedule, to do a lot of thinking over the past 3 weeks. And let me just share some of your reflections. I hope you'll excuse me if I take pride in talking about certain accomplishments. Over the next few years I reckon I'll be spending a lot of time in what Teddy Roosevelt called the great cathedral of the outdoors, and I can't wait. I'll remember what we've tried to do to conserve it, to preserve it, and I am very proud of our team's efforts.

Everyone is and should be, whatever age, interested in the environment. And my own conviction, or environmental policy, if you will, was born out of the concerns of a President, an outdoorsman, and maybe most of all, a grandfather. Our approach signaled a step beyond command-and-control regulation toward a more market-oriented, decentralized philosophy of environmental action.

Those who said we posed a false choice between a strong economy and a safer environment just didn't get it, just missed the point. We sought to achieve both while sacrificing neither. And we combined a pragmatism about human nature with an idealism about Mother Nature, an ambitious agenda that harnessed the energy of capitalism in the service of the environment.

Now, excuse me, as I say, if I take pride in listing a few accomplishments that we pass on to a new generation. The Clean Air Act, with the help of Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, we broke 10 years of congressional gridlock by pushing through the world's most protective and cost-effective clean air legislation. And we've already proposed or finalized rules that promise to get at 85 percent of the pollution reductions that are targeted in this law. [Applause] Reilly's clapping for himself, and I don't blame him. [Laughter]

We won major funding -- shifting to environmental programs -- increasing the EPA's budget, I believe it was almost 50 percent; increasing funding for clean energy research and development by 66 percent. We enlisted the private sector in the voluntary pollution prevention efforts that are reshaping American industries, making us leaner, more efficient, and reducing toxic pollution by hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

On the law enforcement front, we broke new ground and old records, filing more cases, collecting more penalties, and putting more polluters behind bars than every previous administration in history combined. We helped make America's great outdoors even greater, securing over a billion dollars to expand parks and wetlands and wildlife refuges, campgrounds and scenic rivers. We decided to end clear-cutting as a standard practice on Federal land. And our America the Beautiful initiative has gotten off to a good start with several million new trees all across this great country.

We ensured that America's seas would still be shining, ending ocean dumping and sewage sludge, proposing and signing a tough oil pollution bill, and imposing a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing over vast areas of the really sensitive, the ecologically sensitive coasts. We've launched a new generation of clean energy technologies, not only by increasing funding for research and development but also by increasing incentives for their use. And we've pushed through comprehensive national energy legislation -- a salute to Jim again -- that will guide our country into the next century.

In terms of Federal leadership, we've tripled funding for Federal facility cleanups, secured over 100 enforceable cleanup agreements for Federal facilities, and signed Executive orders spurring the Federal Government to take the lead in increasing energy efficiency, recycling, waste reduction, and converting the Federal fleet to alternative fuels.

Finally, we've insisted that a new world order include a cleaner world environment, and we reached over 20 new international environmental agreements. Just by way of example, we reduced Poland's debt in order to help them fund a new environmental foundation. We also launched the center, the Environmental Center in Budapest, to help countries in Central and Eastern Europe. We made America the world leader in the phaseout of ozone depletion, the ozone-depleting CFC's, and we led the way to global bans on driftnet fishing.

We built environmental cooperation into trade negotiations with Mexico. We've expanded the debt-for-nature swaps to protect the rain forests in Latin America and created networks for cooperation with Asia. And our comprehensive, action-oriented approach to global climate change was ratified by the Senate and adopted by the world community.

At the same time that we renewed our national commitment to the environment, we redoubled our efforts to support and encourage people like you. Everyone in this room, everyone here today, has demonstrated the principles of a new environmentalism. This national environmental awards program was established to honor those who honored the environment.

Some here have forged innovative partnerships, environmental alliances that are protecting our wetlands, preserving our resources, and preparing a new generation of environmental leadership. Others have taken the lead in combining sound business with a safer environment, a smart new merger between profitability and preservation. And still others are pioneers on the frontier of technology, the environmental technology, finding ways to remove CFC production from manufacturing or reduce pollution while recycling metal scrap. And finally we've got recipients here who are cultivating our human resources to conserve our natural ones, leaders like Hazel Johnson, who realize that the greening of America is truly a grassroots operation, or the Environmental Education Program, teaching our children how to care for the great land that they will inherit.

I remember back in July, I was out visiting Sequoia National Park. And there was a camp there for inner-city youngsters. It was called Pyles Boys Camp. And I remember quoting Teddy Roosevelt, talking about the beautiful gifts we received from nature, gifts that we ought, and here's the quote, "ought to hand on as a precious heritage to our children and our children's children." That heritage is the family legacy that all Americans share and share responsibility for. Each of you understand President Roosevelt's challenge, and each of you that we honor has acted on it. And for that you have our admiration, our respect, my own personal gratitude.

That is the end. And I now would like to happily turn this over to Mike Deland, asking that he hand out the medals. Mike.

[At this point, the awards and citations were presented.]

Let me just thank you all once again for coming. I don't think it's too early to wish you a Merry Christmas. I wish in a sense it were Monday because this place will come alive with Christmas trees and Christmas lights. And I hope you all have a wonderful one. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:29 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald J. Atwood, Jr., and former Senators Robert T. Stafford and Gaylord Nelson.

George Bush, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the President's Environment and Conservation Challenge Awards Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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