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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks on Signing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act

1989-12-13

The President. Good afternoon and welcome to the White House. This distinguished audience is a testament to the importance of the bill that I am about to sign. I want to particularly welcome Senator Chafee and Congressmen Conte, Jones, and Studds. Secretary Lujan and Bill Reilly, Mike Deland -- a very distinguished group.

I especially want to welcome our Canadian and Mexican guests. Like the United States, Canada and Mexico have recognized the need to protect waterfowl habitat in Northern America, and their willingness to work with the United States to promote conservation is much appreciated.

You know, last June, I addressed the Ducks Unlimited annual national waterfowl symposium. And at that time, as Harry Knight can confirm, I reiterated my pledge to work towards a national goal of no net loss of wetlands. And I shared with those present my hope of signing wetlands legislation this year. Well, Christmas comes early on this one. [Laughter]

S. 804, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, is sound legislation. And this bill will provide a steady source of funds for the purchase of critical wetlands in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It also authorizes the Interior Department to match Federal funds and private funds for wetlands conservation projects throughout North America. And I am very pleased that the 101st Congress, as one of its first major environmental acts, ended its first session by passing this bill. This bill is an excellent first step in reaching our national goal of no net loss of wetlands.

Over the years, we've 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. And this dwindling duck population is largely attributable to the steady loss of wetland areas that we've experienced. Currently, the United States is losing nearly 400,000 acres of wetlands annually. In response to these trends, the United States and Canada signed an accord in 1986 known as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and this historic agreement proposed an innovative international partnership in wildlife conservation. This bill that I'm signing here today will help us implement this cooperative plan and protect our waterfowl population.

This spirit of cooperation has been the hallmark of S. 804. It represents the worthy efforts of many committed individuals. And I particularly want to single out Senator Mitchell, who isn't with us today -- Senator Chafee, who is -- along with Congressmen Conte and Davis and Dingell, for their leadership. Chairman Jones in the House and Mr. Studds, as well as Senator Burdick and Baucus in the Senate, have all worked diligently to move this legislation through their respective committees. Manuel Lujan, our Secretary, and his staff did an outstanding job in helping to steer this bill through the legislative process. And finally, I appreciate the help from State fish and wildlife agencies and then private conservation groups, like Ducks Unlimited and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in helping secure passage of this bill -- that private sector initiative is very important.

This entire process has been a splendid example of great good that we can accomplish when we approach our problems in a genuine spirit of bipartisanship. I should add that today I've already signed H.R. 1727, the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989, which will add 110,000 acres to the Everglades -- Everglades National Park.

And now, on with the business at hand: It is my honor to sign S. 804, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

Note: The President spoke at 1:21 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to William Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Michael R. Deland, Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Harry Knight, president of Ducks Unlimited. S. 804, approved December 13, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 233.

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