Protecting Wilderness Lands
There is a reason that we were able to declare the Grand [Staircase]-Escalante national monument in southern Utah yesterday, 1.7 million acres, to save Yellowstone from a gold mine, to reach a historic agreement here in Washington State just 2 days ago to protect the old-growth forests of Washington and Oregon, to reach an agreement to restore the salmon in the Columbia River. This does not happen by accident. This happened because we replaced the old Washington politics of who can we blame and hot air with "What are we going to do about it?" Let's don't talk, let's roll up our sleeves, join hands, and actually do something to help the American people make the most of their own lives and to move forward, and that is what we proposed to do. President Clinton, Remarks on Beginning a Bus Tour in Tacoma, Washington, September 19, 1996
During the eight years of his administration, President Clinton created nineteen national monuments, including Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, Agua Fria in Arizona, Giant Sequoia in California, and the California Coastal monument. He also expanded three others.
Beginning in 1993 with the Forest Conference, President Clinton and Vice President Gore moved toward protecting old-growth forests, and the U.S. Forest Service shifted priorities away from a focus on timber production to resource protection, placing 60 million acres of Federal forests off limits to road building. On August 13, 1993, President Clinton signed the Colorado Wilderness Act (H.R. 631), which designated 612,000 acres as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System and prohibited mechanized or motorized traffic in these areas.
In 1996, President Clinton signed an agreement that defended already-protected lands. A mining company was planning a gold mine adjacent to the border of Yellowstone National Park, which created the possibility of contamination of the park. The Clinton administration worked to come to an agreement with the mining company and stop the mine from being built.
In 2000, President Clinton strengthened the protections on the Everglades by signing the Water Resources Development Act. This act authorized the Comprehensive State Everglades Restoration Plan, and took significant steps to restore areas of the Everglades to their natural state.
The administration also fought for protections of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and protected coastlines in Florida and Alaska from oil drilling.