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Statement on Signing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act

December 13, 1989

I am pleased today to sign into law S. 804, the "North American Wetlands Conservation Act." Early this summer, I asked the Congress for legislation that would implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. I am pleased that the 101st Congress ended its first session by passing this bill.

Over the years, we have witnessed a steadily declining duck population and a pattern of wetland losses throughout North America. These disturbing trends have been exacerbated by drought in recent years. In 1988, the fall flight of ducks was estimated at only 66 million, second only to the 1985 all-time low of 62 million. This dwindling duck population is largely attributable to the steady loss of wetland areas we have experienced. Currently, the United States is losing nearly 400,000 acres of wetlands annually.

In response to these disturbing trends, the United States and Canada signed an accord in 1986 known as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. This historic agreement proposed an innovative international partnership in wildlife conservation. Through cooperative efforts between our two nations, along with local governments, private interest groups, and individual citizens, "joint ventures" have been created to reverse the disturbing trend underlying our diminishing waterfowl population.

We applaud the commitment, the dedication, and the goals expressed by the North American Plan. Today I am signing S. 804 to provide a guaranteed source of funding for the implementation of this important cooperative effort.

The Canadian government recently announced that it will invest $30 million over the next 5 years for waterfowl habitat conservation projects under the North American Plan. We applaud these efforts and Canada's willingness to join us in this critical conservation project.

Perhaps the best part of this whole enterprise is that the North American Plan does not depend on a massive influx of Federal funds or regulations, but rather taps the common commitment of concerned citizens at the local level. Many State and local governments, businesses, conservation organizations, and private citizens have already joined together to help restore the wetlands that sustain our waterfowl population. I encourage the continuation of these efforts.

The spirit of cooperation is not only the foundation of the North American Plan, it has also been the hallmark of S. 804. This bill represents the worthy efforts of many committed individuals. I commend Senators Mitchell and Chafee, along with Congressmen Conte, Davis, and Dingell, for their leadership on this legislation. Chairmen Jones and Studds in the House, as well as Chairmen Burdick and Baucus in the Senate, have all worked diligently to move this legislation through their respective committees. Finally, I appreciate the help from State fish and wildlife agencies and private conservation groups in securing passage of this bill. This entire process has been a splendid example of the great good we can accomplish when we approach our problems in a genuine spirit of bipartisanship.

I must mention, however, my concerns regarding sections 11 and 16 of S. 804. Section 11 directs the Secretary of the Interior to "undertake with the appropriate officials in Canada" to revise the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Section 16 directs the Secretary to "undertake with the appropriate officials of nations in the Western Hemisphere to establish agreements . . . for the protection of migratory birds." I support the objectives of these sections and intend to act consistently with them. However, in light of the President's constitutional responsibility for international negotiations, I construe these sections as advisory.

In signing this legislation today, we continue the legacy begun during the first decade of this century by one of our greatest Presidents. It was Theodore Roosevelt who first took up the grand cause of conservation, who recognized man's obligation to preserve and protect our precious natural heritage. Today, on the threshold of this century's last decade, we can be proud that, with the approval of S. 804, we are renewing that noble commitment to improve environmental quality for all our people.

George Bush

The White House,

December 13, 1989.

Note: S. 804, approved December 13, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 233.

George Bush, Statement on Signing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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