East Room Washington D.C. August 4 10:41 A.M. EDT
Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, thank you very much. Please. Great honor to have you the White House.
And we're here today to celebrate the passage of truly landmark legislation that will preserve America's majestic natural wonders, priceless historic treasures — and that's exactly what they are — grand national monuments, and glorious national parks. This is a very big deal. And from an environmental standpoint and from just the beauty of our country standpoint, there hasn't been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect.
In a few moments, I will proudly sign the Great American Outdoors Act into law. And so many of the people here today have been so involved, and I'll be introducing you, and some will say a few words. And we really appreciate what you've done for our country.
For more than 50 years, Congress has struggled to adequately fund land and water conservation, leading to a never-ending backlog of maintenance and other critical needs in our parks and public lands. And I've been hearing about this for years. I've been watching it and hearing about it for years.
Today, more than 5,500 miles of road, 17,000 miles of trails, and 24,000 buildings are in critical need of repair; they have been for a long time. Many are closed, boarded up. They thought it was less expensive to close them than it was to repair them. Some are magnificent, too.
Earlier this year, I called on Congress to pass legislation that would end this maintenance backlog once and for all. Today we're making the most significant investment in our parks since the administration of the legendary conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt. This landmark legislation would not have been possible without the incredible leadership and hard work of two outstanding senators in particular, and two fine people, Cory Gardner and Steve Daines. I want to thank you both. (Applause.)
And I can just say, as a side note, they would call me all the time. And I said, "Can you guys stop calling me so much?" (Laughter.) But they would call me all the time; they wanted to get it done. This was very important to them. So I appreciate it, Steve and Cory. Really, a great job. People thought you had zero chance of getting this one done. This is big. And they gave you zero chance. You know that, right? "Don't waste your time on a president. We have other things to do. It'd be great if we could get it, but it's never going to happen." Congratulations. Great job. Thank you. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Senators Rob Portman, Lamar Alexander, Martha McSally, John Hoeven, and Representatives Don Young, Jeff Fortenberry, and Tom Reed. And I think they're all here, right? Yes. Hi, Rob. (Applause.) Good. Good. Thank you. Thank you.
We're honored also to be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue, a person named Ivanka Trump — does everybody know? — (laughter) — who's been very, very active in this; she believes in it very strongly — and many wonderful conservation advocates. And thank you all for your tireless work. And the work you've done is something that you'll be very proud of in the years to come. Thank you, Mike. Everybody, thank you very much. (Applause.) Really great.
The Great American Outdoors Act provides $900 million a year in guaranteed funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund so that all Americans can continue to enjoy our parks, wildlife refuges. I mean, if you look at this, if you look at what we do with our wildlife, and — it's really been incredible. So all of the wildlife areas, the wildlife parks, historic battlefields, national monuments, and public lands.
Additionally, this bill provides nearly $10 billion for long-delayed maintenance projects, repairs, and upgrades to make the national parks greater than they have ever been before. We think that's going to happen.
The legislation I'm signing today builds on my administration's unwavering commitment to conserving and — the grandeur and the splendor of God's creation. This is truly God's creation.
Last year, I designated 1.3 million acres of public land as new wilderness. I ordered much more active forest management to prevent catastrophic wildfires. And I'm recommending they do that in California and other locations, and you'll see how quickly the wildfires stop. And I signed the Save Our Seas Act to protect our environment from foreign nations that litter the oceans with garbage and pollution.
The United States has among the cleanest air and water on Earth, and my administration is working every day to keep it that way. We're at a level now — we have never been at this level in the modern age. I guess, if you go back 100, 200 years, it was a little different story. A lot fewer people. But nothing even close in the modern age.
We are proving that we can protect our treasured environment without bludgeoning our workers and crushing our businesses. And we're standing up to international tribunals that punish Americans while allowing foreign nations to pollute with impunity. We have other nations — China, Russia, India, many other nations — that are not doing the job they should be. And we do it. It's very costly. It costs our businesses a lot of money. It's probably not fair. And the impact is much more — it's smaller. It's minimal by comparison to what it could be. But we're working with other countries to try and get them to up their game.
We believe Americans know best how to conserve this magnificent land that we love and cherish and adore.
Earlier this year, I announced that the United States would join the One Trillion Trees Initiative to plant new trees in America and around the world. Today I'm calling on Congress to expand this effort by passing the REPLANT Act, sponsored by Senator Rob Portman. Thank you, Rob. Very good. Thank you. (Applause.) Great. Thank you. Fellas, would you both stand up, please? That's fantastic. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Rob.
Which would quadruple the funding and for the restoration of our national forest. This would quadruple the funding, create thousands of jobs, and help plant more than 1 billion trees in America and on American soil over the next 10 years.
When you add all of this to what we did in Utah, if you remember that — that was a year and a half ago — but we did Bears Ears National Monument. When you add all of this to Bears Ears, I would say — and it got my attention when Steve and a whole group came up to my office. When you — actually, both of you came up with a group, and you said this would be bigger than Theodore Roosevelt. I said, "Do me a favor: You don't have to say that. Let's just say it will be the same or almost as good." Because he was truly the great conservation President.
But the kind of things we've done — and they don't talk about it, but the kind of things we've done are really record-setting. This is record-setting stuff, and you're all a big part of it. So thank you. And thank you, Rob. Great job.
To preserve America's brilliance for the next generation, we're also defending our national heritage. In June, I signed an executive order requiring the Department of Justice to prosecute to the full extent — extent allowed under law — anyone who defaces our historic statues or monuments.
Under my order, these criminals face 10 years in jail, 10 years in prison. And it was an incredible thing because we were having a lot of problems all over the country with people going around and knocking down monuments — some very beautiful monuments. And they were knocking them down with impunity, as they would say. And once I signed that, I haven't seen anything happen. It's amazing, David, the way it quieted down. Right?
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