In a ceremony held yesterday in the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama officially signed the Public Lands Management Act of 2009.
Among the many important wins for preservation included in the final legislation's 1,300 pages and 160 provisions is the National Landscape Conservation System Act. Two and a half years in the making, this bill creates the first major system of U.S. public lands in nearly half a century. Named the National Landscape Conservation System, it is comprised of the best lands, waterways and cultural resources managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
"Attending the bill signing for the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 was the fulfillment of a dream that began in 2000 to create the Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System," National Trust for Historic Preservation Public Lands Policy Program Manager Denise Ryan said. "It is hard to describe my joy and relief at finally passing the bill after several years of hard work. Sitting in the beautiful and historic East Room of the White House while President Obama signed the bill, surrounded by the bill’s congressional champions, was marvelous."
For special coverage of the big day, check out the photos taken by Denise above, as well as the following excerpts from the inspiring remarks made during the signing ceremony.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's Remarks
Over the last two centuries, America’s best ideas for protecting our vast lands and open spaces have often arrived while our country has faced its greatest trials.
It was in the midst of our nation’s bloodiest conflict – the Civil War – that President Abraham Lincoln set aside the lands that are now Yosemite National Park.
It was at the dawn of the 20th century, with our cities and industries growing and our open lands and watersheds disappearing, that President Teddy Roosevelt expanded our national parks and set aside the world’s largest system of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation, the national wildlife refuge system.
And it was in the darkest days of the Great Depression that President Franklin Roosevelt put three million young Americans to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps. They built the trails, campgrounds, parks and conservation projects we enjoy today.
In these moments when our national character is most tested we rightly seek to protect that which fuels our spirit.
For America’s national character - our optimism, our dreams, our shared stories – are rooted in our landscapes.
We each have places we love. For me, it is the San Luis Valley in Colorado. It is the lands my family has farmed for five generations. The waters of the San Antonio River. The snows on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
As Americans, we are defined most by our people and our places.
President Barack Obama's Remarks
As Americans, we possess few blessings greater than the vast and varied landscapes that stretch the breadth of our continent. Our lands have always provided great bounty – food and shelter for the first Americans, for settlers and pioneers; the raw materials that grew our industry; the energy that powers our economy.
What these gifts require in return is our wise and responsible stewardship. As our greatest conservationist President, Teddy Roosevelt, put it almost a century ago, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
That's the spirit behind the bipartisan legislation I'm signing today – legislation among the most important in decades to protect, preserve and pass down our nation’s most treasured landscapes to future generations.