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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

American Society of Landscape Architects Boston, Massachusetts

09/14/1999
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
American Society of Landscape Architects
Boston, Massachusetts

                       September 14, 1999
                               

     Thank you Barry for that introduction.
     I'm pleased to be with you in Boston for this 100th anniversary of the American Society of Landscape Architects. But -- I must confess -- there's another reason I am happy to be here. A personal reason.
     I love gardening. I fancy myself as having a green thumb. Unfortunately -- green or otherwise -- I was all thumbs on this job. First, I bought certain plants because I thought they looked beautiful. Of course -- they were all doomed since I didn't realize they couldn't live where I was planting them.
     I also ignored proven landscaping techniques. Well . . . I didn't ignore them. I just didn't know what I was doing.
     Anyway, I finally broke down and hired a professional landscape architect. I still get to do all the work -- but now things actually live.
     And when I saw what this one professional could do with my little patch of the Earth, it made me that much more impressed with your commitment   as part of your 100th anniversary   to create or restore 100 parks across America.
     Since we're speaking about your 100-year anniversary, let's look back for a moment at how the century opened for the environment.
     Theodore Roosevelt was President and he was to become the father of the environmental movement. Between 1901 to 1909,  Roosevelt set aside almost 230 million acres of land -- an area equivalent to the entire East coast from Maine to Florida -- as parks, sanctuaries or reserves.
     He thought it was the duty of each generation to ensure our nation's great natural wonders are preserved for the generations to come.
     And now as we come to the close of the century, we're starting to realize the need to expand on President Roosevelt's thinking by bringing it closer to home. We are now recognizing that preserving the environment is not simply about protecting a beautiful far away place we may visit on vacation. It is about enhancing our communities -- the places where we live and raise our families.  We want more parks, more scenic trails, more riverfront walks where we can bike, skate or just stroll. We want shared places where we can gather with our neighbors.
     We also want to relieve the pressure on our farmlands and open spaces   pressure that has led to the loss of more than 30 million acres of pristine land since 1970. Thirty million acres! That's like paving over nearly all of New England.
     Since taking office, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have put us on the path toward turning this around.
     Our brownfields program is cleaning up and revitalizing abandoned industrial properties in more than 300 communities around the country. This program has leveraged more than $1 billion in public and private funds, created thousands of new jobs, turned idle land back to productive and profitable use and relieved development pressure on our suburban and rural open spaces.
     Under this Administration, we have cleaned up three times more Superfund sites than the previous Administrations did in 12 years. In fact, nearly 90 percent of all Superfund sites have either been completed or the cleanup is in progress.
     But there's more to do. And your 100 Parks initiative will be part of it because you are right on target with what the average American is thinking.
       Last fall, 240 Agreen@ ballot initiatives were considered in states and communities across the country. More than 150 of these measures to enhance local livability were adopted, authorizing $7.5 billion in state and local spending.
       These voters sent a simple message -- but they sent it loud and clear: They want to see older neighborhoods revitalized; they want their waterways and wetlands protected from pollution; they want an end to the traffic congestion that costs us billions of dollars in wasted time and fuel, and they want to see farmland and open space preserved.
       The President and Vice President understand this and have proposed a "Livability Agenda" that will take us into the future by rediscovering the joys of our past -- a past when cities and towns exerted a gravity that kept commerce and culture swirling nearby rather than spiraling ever outward.
       As part of this "Livability Agenda," President Clinton and Vice President Gore announced some new tools to revitalize our communities -- be they suburbs or urban centers. One of those tools is called Better America Bonds.
       This plan offers a creative way for states and communities to preserve open space, create parks or clean up brownfields. They might also decide to improve water quality by purchasing and preserving wetlands or creating forest buffers to protect streams. Or they can do all those things together. It's very flexible and it's up to each community to decide what's best.
       Simply put, Better America Bonds is about the simplest law you could write to do the greatest amount of good.
       With Better America Bonds, states and local governments will be able to issue nearly $10 billion in bonds over five years and pay no interest. And they have 15 years to pay back the principal. Investors who buy the bonds receive tax credits from the federal government  equal to the amount of the interest they would have received from the community.
       Could it be any easier?
       Let me tell you what Better America Bonds is not. It's not micromanaging local decisions. Under the Better America Bonds program, the federal government will not buy a single square-inch of  land. All purchases will be made by state and local governments.
       And we will encourage regional approaches. We would like to see small communities working with large cities, counties working with states and states working with their neighboring states.
       But Better America Bonds are just one part of the Administration's "livability" agenda.
       There is also a large new transportation investment -- $1.6 billion -- to reduce congestion, encourage transit and improve air quality.
       We simply have to do something to break through the traffic gridlock that snarls commuters and commerce in our cities and suburbs.
       Studies show that Americans can lose two full working weeks a year -- or more -- stuck in traffic at a cost of more than $1,000 per driver. I don't know about you but if I had two free weeks and a thousand dollars in my pocket, I'd rather use it for a family vacation than for lonely drives on crowded roads.
       Besides wasting time, drivers stuck in traffic wasted more than six billion gallons of fuel, according to one study. That's enough to fill 670,000 gasoline tank trucks or 134 super tankers.
       When you combine both the wasted time with the wasted fuel, the cost to the economy is almost $74 billion. Think of that -- $74 billion literally up in smoke. How many schools could we build or renovate with that money? How many college educations could we pay for?
       We simply must deal with these problems.
       You know, we started off today talking about this century   this past 100 years. But a new millennium is now just 108 days away. Maybe we should seize this moment as a chance to broaden our look at the future and think not just in mere decades, or centuries   but what will life be like a thousand years from now   and are we laying the foundation for those far away generations.
       Let me give you an example of the kind of thinking I'm talking about. In 310 B.C., the Romans set out on an ambitious plan to build aqueducts. The system they finally built supplied Rome with 38 million gallons of fresh water per day.
       That was a pretty impressive engineering feat for its time.
       But do you know what? Some of them still work -- after more than 2,000 years, some of those aqueducts still work, providing water to the fountains of Rome. Wouldn't everyone in this room like to think that something you did in your lifetime would last that far into the future?
       Well, you can. Think about this for a minute.
       As landscape architects, you can work with your communities to take abandoned lands and turn them into parks or other shared spaces. And they can last forever. The best thing about mother nature is that -- if cared for -- she has a nearly infinite design life.
       And then on some far away day, a family might be strolling through one of the parks you helped build. They might marvel at the tall stands of trees. They might stroll along the well- designed footpaths that lead to green open spaces where neighbors gather on a nice spring day. And they might walk by the dedication marker that was placed there on the park's opening day and talk about how people were really looking ahead in the year 2000.
       This can be a legacy you leave not just to the new century, but to the century after that, and the century after -- and on and on to the next millennium.
       Our cities, towns and communities -- some with centuries of history already behind them -- need your help if they are to be vibrant in the century to come. You can help your communities build their legacies for the new millennium. With the President's "Livability Agenda," we're just trying to give you the tools to get the job done.
       Thank you.