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Public Papers - 1990 - March

Remarks at a White House Tree-Planting Ceremony

1990-03-22

Thank you, Secretary Yeutter, Bill Reilly, and Chairman Deland, to Senators Lugar and Leahy and Congressman Kika de la Garza, the chairman also in the House Ag Committee, and distinguished Members of Congress here. I want to single out two other special friends, pioneers in this greening effort, tree planting: Trammell Crow and Margaret [Crow] from Dallas, Texas. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen -- Irv, I haven't forgotten you. Irv Williams, who was introduced by Clayt, really does so much to just keep the White House grounds beautiful. And we're indebted to him every single day that we have custodianship of this lovely house. Welcome to all of you to an event which celebrates how trees can preserve and protect our great outdoors.

I want to talk just a little about the precious inheritance of trees passed from one generation to another. We see it in the great ebonies of India or the sequoias in California, the lush rainforests of South America and the evergreens of the Alps. Their very presence demands that we renew and restore the natural beauty of our land. Trees do enhance our atmosphere, providing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. A tree planted today can enrich the lives of generations yet unborn.

Just think, on these grounds stands a tree planted by John Quincy Adams in 1826. Nearby is the spot where Woodrow Wilson's family so loved bay trees that they often ate lunch in a makeshift grove. And not far from here is the little-leaf linden planted in 1937 by Franklin Roosevelt for Britain's King George VI. Next to the Oval Office -- there you'll find an oak tree planted by President Eisenhower. There's a swing on it. You can almost see it, over past that Suburban over there. Often our grandchild swings on it, and I expect in the future many other grandchildren of Presidents will do the same.

Trees are truly an inheritance that links generations of America. Last summer a terrible windstorm swept through Washington. I remember thinking of these trees around us and the link they provide. Truth is that Barbara and I were a little worried about them -- Grover Cleveland's Japanese spiderleaf, for instance, or Herbert Hoover's oak. They're old trees, and maybe I'm beginning to feel an affinity for them with my birthday coming up, but nevertheless, they're special. For instance, the magnolia over there was planted by Andrew Jackson -- the one next to the South Portico.

Thankfully, the trees here weren't damaged in that storm. Elsewhere in Washington, it was a different story: a lot of people out the next morning surveying the damage, mourning the loss of a favorite oak or an elm, regarding it with concern and affection, just as you would view a friend.

Trees can be fragile, they can be sturdy, but they are always precious. So, in the budget I submitted to Congress, I asked for 5 million to plant 1 billion trees a year. Today I'm asking Congress to approve another step to protect the environment. We call it the National Tree Trust Act of 1990. It will foster the partnership between public and private sectors to plant trees all across America.

Under our plan, we will designate a private nonprofit foundation to receive a one-time Federal grant to promote community tree planting and cultivation projects -- a foundation to solicit contributions from private sources, forging cooperation between individuals, businesses, governments, and community organizations. It will sound a nationwide call for each American to become a volunteer for the environment and, most of all, plant the trees that clean our air, prevent erosion, consume carbon dioxide, and purify our water. This act can preserve the heritage of trees -- their beauty that is breathtaking and their bounty that is breathgiving.

As you can imagine, the foundation's funding won't simply come out of the woodwork. In addition to the million in Federal money we're proposing, the foundation will begin to raise millions of dollars more to help reforest America. The Tree Trust Act will work by using State forestry agencies and private tree-planting organizations -- volunteers helping thousands of new volunteers to learn not only how and where to plant trees but how to care for them, why we need them, and how they help the environment. Our foundation will be one of a Thousand Points of Light, creating 10 billion trees of life. By planting trees in all 50 States, we'll knock Johnny Appleseed out of the Guinness Book of Records.

The National Tree Trust Act of 1990 is a key part of our national tree-planting and forest improvement initiative to be administered by the Ag Department. This two-part program involves both rural areas as well as local tree-planting programs in the cities. And it, in turn, is crucial to my America the Beautiful program, which I announced in the State of the Union.

I am proud of America the Beautiful. It will help maintain and expand our parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and public lands. I do love the outdoors, and I love exploring it with those who are the trustees of our future.

What we're doing today is planting the seeds of environmental stewardship, and that means not only planting trees but other steps just as vital -- clean air, for example. Our clean air proposal promises relief from the smog, acid rain, and toxic pollution that harms trees and people. Once again, I call on the Congress to pass the bill. We're also working hard on energy efficiency and pollution prevention, clean oceans, global cooperation. Just as a tree grows, with roots and branches spreading, our efforts on all these issues will reach into the future.

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, perhaps America's greatest conservationist, Teddy Roosevelt, put it best when he called our lands and wildlife the property of unborn generations and when he said this about America's sequoias and redwoods: they ``should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral.''

Today ours is the chance to keep that cathedral great and beautiful by planting not only sequoias and redwoods but poplars and maples and cypress and sassafras. And I can't think of a better time to begin than this spring, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. Teddy Roosevelt would have loved that one.

Four weeks from now we'll celebrate it, but I thought we'd get a head start this morning. And so, I'm pleased to be able to join Barbara as she plants this eastern redbud blossoming tree in a few minutes. By comparison to other trees, it seems small today. But so, years ago, did the special tree beside me. My kids were the age of some of you when it, too, was planted by President Eisenhower. And when you're my age, Barbara's tree can be just as strong, embody just as much history, do just as much to ensure the splendor of America.

Trees are an inheritance precious to our cathedral of the outdoors. So, just look around us, and in that context, let me thank again Irv Williams -- thank you, sir -- and all the people of the White House grounds staff for the tender loving care they gave to our trees and flowers.

So, let us plant the trees and nurture them so that America will remain America the Beautiful for generations to come.

I am very pleased that all of you came today. And now, with no further ado, let's get on with the tree planting.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. on the South Grounds of the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to William K. Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Michael R. Deland, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Irvin Williams, Superintendent of Grounds at the White House.

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