Obama Marks Interior's 160th Anniversary
During a brief appearance to mark the 160th anniversary of the Department of Interior, President Obama formally announced plans to restore elements of the Endangered Species Act and called out provisions of his economic recovery plan that will help preserve the nation's natural resources and support Native American populations.
Joined by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at the department's Main Building, Obama said the recovery plan will provide Interior with more than $3 billion "to create jobs doing the work that America needs you to do" by bolstering renewable energy programs, replacing some of the department's aging equipment and make the nation's buildings more energy efficient.
The money will fund "long-delayed work to preserve our natural wonders" and help pave roads "on which 275 million visitors travel to reach these sites across our country," Obama said.
"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will rebuild and remodel schools on Indian reservations while providing $100 million in loans to spur job creation in the Indian economy," he added. The investments will be made "with unprecedented oversight," he said, acknowledging previous ethical lapses by some of the department's leadership.
Obama said he issued today's memorandum to "help restore the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act." He said the work of scientists and experts will be respected in his administration, a swipe at the Bush administration's December 2008 decision allowing some projects to go ahead without scientific review.
Speaking before the president, Salazar noted that, "When the first Secretary of the Interior, Thomas Ewing, took the oath of office on March 3, 1849, the United States ended at the Mississippi River. There were only 29 stars on our flag. The Department of the Interior’s mandate now reaches across 12 times zones. It includes responsibility for places as grand as Yosemite, structures as mighty as the Hoover Dam, and creatures as small as the tiniest songbird."
The president also acknowledged the department's history, noting the department was "born less of a singular purpose then of a series of growing needs," and thus earned the nickname "The Department of Everything Else." He reflected on a trip he took as an 11-year-old boy with his grandmother, mother and sister that started in Seattle, snaked down the West Coast to the Grand Canyon, out to the Great Plains and Great Lakes then back West through Yellowstone National Park.
"That was an experience I will never forget. It's an experience I want for my daughters and all our daughters and sons," telling the rank-and-file it is "only possible because of the work you do each and every day."
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