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Transcript of Gov. Schwarzenegger's Roadless Remarks

[Watch the video here]

Secretary Chrisman:

Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you all for coming today. This is a very, very important milestone in the history of California, the protection of its forests and open spaces.

Californians, I think as you all know, are blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. These are here, of course, for the health and enjoyment and the wellbeing of all Californians; California's 37 million residents, as well as those who travel here from around the world and enjoy these magnificent beaches, parks, forests and other open spaces in this magnificent state.

Today Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will take an important step towards ensuring that these landscapes are preserved for future generations. The Governor's Roadless Petition speaks strongly to the values of all Californians that we have an obligation to protect our valuable natural resources for the people of the State of California and for our economy, and for the biological diversity they support.

As it always does at times like this, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce the Governor of the State of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governor? (Applause)

Governor Schwarzenegger:

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary Mike Chrisman, for the nice introduction. Now, before I talk about the Roadless Rules, I want to first of all just say thank you all for coming out here this afternoon, it's great to have you all here. To have so many people that are interested in the environment, it's great.

And before I say something about our Roadless Rules I just want to say a little bit about what's going on in San Bernardino County with our Sawtooth Complex fire. Our latest information shows that we have more than 30,000 acres that have burned, and 30 structures have been destroyed, and the fire is now 10 percent contained. It is extremely hot and windy down there, which are the perfect conditions for a wildfire.

But we have more than 1,000 firefighters on the scene and they're doing an incredible job. Our firefighting crews are the bravest and the best trained, and the most battle-tested there are, they're second to none, and they're working around the clock to bring this fire under control. I'm very proud of the work that they're doing. And we're working to make sure that they have enough manpower and they also have enough equipment in order to get this done as quickly as possible.

But in the meantime it is extremely dangerous. Nine firefighters and two civilians have already been hurt, and suffered injuries, and our thoughts are with them. And I know evacuations are taking place around the fire, and I urge everyone in the area to use the greatest caution, and to cooperate fully with our fire authorities both for their own safety and for the safety of the firefighters so they can do their job and protect you and your property.

Now let's talk about protecting the environment. As you have heard Secretary Mike Chrisman talking about how beautiful California is, well, let me tell you something. I come from a beautiful country, from Austria. But I can tell you that there's nothing even that comes close to California. California, without any doubt, is the most beautiful place in the world. We are blessed with a tremendous natural beauty, mountains, coastline, redwoods, desert, rivers, forests. We have everything here in this state. And this beauty is a great strength for our state, and that's why we have to do everything that we can to protect it. It is critical that we pass this legacy on to our children.

Now, when I was elected governor I promised that I would take care of our environment here in this state. I love being the environmental warrior for California. And since becoming governor, we have created some great environmental action here in this state; the Million Solar Roof plan, the Green Building Initiative, the Ocean Action plan, the Hydrogen Highway, the 25 million acres of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Climate Action Team, and the list goes on and on and on.

But today I want to talk to you about protecting another California resource, which are our National Forests. Our National Forests are extremely important to us. For months my administration has been working on preserving our forests. We want to find the best balance between commercial, recreational and environmental demands on our lands. But through it all, my No. 1 priority is to keep our roadless areas roadless, and to keep our forests in their natural state.

Next year a federal rule protecting these areas will actually expire, leaving millions of acres at risk for road building and other development. I want to put an end to this threat once and for all. So today I am submitting California's Roadless Petition to the federal government to protect 4.4 million acres of land, more than 20 percent of our state's National Forests. It is critical—(Applause)

Thank you. I think it is critical that we safeguard these areas. They're not only the home of plants and animals and wildlife, but they're providing incredible recreation and supply drinking water to millions and millions of Californians. My petition will virtually eliminate new roads in these 4 million acres, allowing them only for public safety emergencies and for pre-existing rights on National Forest lands. My petition also will restrict the cutting, removal, or selling of timber in these areas with very few exceptions, like habitat improvement or fire safety.

This Roadless plan is fitting for our state. You know why? Because this is the birthplace of the conservation movement. We deserve it. It will honor our environmental heritage, preserve our resources, and protect our forests for the future.

Thank you very much. Thank you for listening. (Applause)

And now I want to bring out someone is an expert when it comes to the environment. It's Carl Zichella, who is with the Sierra Club. Thank you very much. Carl? Please.

Carl Zichella:

Thank you, Governor. It's a pleasure to hear a governor of this state speak so passionately about our environment and his concern for it, and we really appreciate it.

I'm here on behalf of the 800,000 members of the Sierra Club, America's oldest environmental organization, to thank the Governor for the action he's taking today to protect 4.4 million acres of California National Forest land by putting it off-limits to road building and other kinds of development. The Governor's action reflects California's strong support for protecting these areas and the clean water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities they provide.

Last year the Bush Administration repealed the 2001 Roadless Area Rule. The original rule was a product of exhaustive studies of scientific, economic and public input. Californians weighed in, in great numbers, in support of that rule, and the Governor's action today honors their concern and commitment. Ten times more public comments than any other federal rule in history were in favor of this particular protection that we're talking about today.

In addition to the recreational and wildlife values, roadless areas in our state's National Forests protect watersheds that provide water for more than 22 million Californians. According to the US Forest Service, between 50 percent and 70 percent of US water supplies originate on National Forests. California roadless areas also represent some of the most scenic and ecologically valuable land in the world. In the US, California is second only to Hawaii in its richness of plant and animal species, and many of these are found only in the remaining pristine wild areas in California, including these roadless areas. They also contribute to recreational opportunities that are unsurpassed in this country for the variety of natural landscapes and habitats.

Governor Schwarzenegger has agreed with a majority of Californians that protecting these lands is their highest and best use. The Governor's action benefits all Californians, and we thank him for his leadership in presenting this petition to the Bush Administration, and we hope that the administration will grant it expeditiously.

Next, I'd like to introduce my colleague Mary Wells, the Executive Director of the California Wilderness Coalition. (Applause)

Mary Wells:

Governor Schwarzenegger is a true hero today. The petition to save all of California's unprotected roadless areas in our National Forests is a giant step toward the permanent protection of California's last remaining wilderness. Our National Forests are part of our identity as the Golden State, from the north coast rainforest to the giant sequoias to the last open spaces in southern California. Roadless areas include California's own purple mountains majesties; the Trinity Alps, the Cascades, the San Gabriels and the San Bernardinos, and of course the great iconic Sierra Nevada. They deserve to be protected.

In the Sierra, just up I-80 from here, is the North Fork American roadless area on the Tahoe National Forest. The heart of this roadless forest is the North Fork of the American River, a designated wild and scenic river. The river cuts deep into the mountain, it goes through a dense ancient forest, and it actually flows into the Folsom Reservoir, providing drinking water for Placer and Sacramento Counties. Protecting this canyon today supplies clean drinking water for millions of people tomorrow.

That's why the Governor's action is so important. Wild forests are not just scenic beauties; they are practical necessities. Californians expect our natural resources to be protected for future generations, and Governor Schwarzenegger is keeping his promise today with this act. We applaud the Governor's actions. He's a champion for our National Forests. (Applause)

And I'd like to introduce Sami Yassa, the Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Forestry Initiative. (Applause)

Sami Yassa:

Good afternoon. On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council and our 250,000 members and activists here in the State of California, I'm here to say thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger, for listening to Californians and standing up in support of protecting roadless areas. Hundreds of thousands of Californians have asked the United States Forest Service to protect these areas, yet these requests have fallen on deaf ears in Washington. Today the Governor is sending a message loud and clear that Californians want these special places protected, and today we urge Washington to listen.

Roadless areas are part of what makes California spectacular. They're an essential part of our natural heritage, an irreplaceable source of clean water for our state, a foundation for our diverse and strong economy, and a refuge for the human spirit. It's our responsibility to care for these lands for our children and for their children, and by adding his voice to those Californians who have already spoken out, Governor Schwarzenegger is exhibiting true leadership, and we hope that Washington will listen.

Thank you. I'd like now to introduce Sam Davidson with Trout Unlimited. (Applause)

Sam Davidson:

My name is Sam Davidson, I'm the California Field Director for Trout Unlimited, the nation's largest cold water fish conservation group, and I'm here today to represent California's sportsmen and women in applauding Governor Schwarzenegger's decision to petition the federal government for permanent protection of all inventoried roadless areas in California.

California has more species of native trout than any other state. Several of these trout are rare, including California's state fish, the golden trout, considered by many anglers to be the most beautiful freshwater fish in North America. Another of California's native fish is the Paiute cutthroat trout, the rarest trout in the world, which survives only in a single creek on the flanks of the eastern Sierra. Both of these fish depend on water that flows out of or through roadless areas which Governor Schwarzenegger has acted today to save.

Sportsmen have consistently been very supportive of protecting roadless lands. We don't want our last, best places ruined. We want them kept just the way they are now, as roadless areas offer some of the best fish and game habitat and some of the best opportunities for rigorous challenge and solitude while hunting and fishing that we have left.

Today is a great day for California's fishermen and hunters. On behalf of all of us, for whom being in the outdoors is a way of life, and who believe that sportsmen, conservationists such as Teddy Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold were heroes, and who are committed to caretaking our fish and game resources so that we can pass along something really good to our children, I thank you.

Any serious angler, when he finds himself in front of a captive audience like this, instinctively takes advantage by spinning some fishing yarns, and so I'd like to tell you a short fish story. A few weeks ago I took my eight-year-old son into the Sierras for his first fishing experience with a fly rod. We hiked into a small creek that drains from a roadless area in the Sierra National Forest south of Yosemite. Over a couple of hours my son caught several small, beautiful, wild rainbow trout on a dry fly, and I thought things were going pretty darn well until I suggested that we walk out on a large log that had fallen across the stream, and that would allow us to drop a fly in an eddy on the other side that we couldn't cast to.

Well, in short order I contrived to fall off the log, pulling my son with me, and though we both emerged not much the worse for wear, my prized three-weight fly rod was last sighted making a beeline down river, and another hour of wading couldn't coax it to show up again. So I figure I personally contributed additional value to that particular roadless area. And most importantly, when we got back home my son lied like an old-timer about the size of the fish he had caught.

Governor Schwarzenegger, thanks for keeping alive the opportunity for such experiences and such memories. (Applause)

Dan Jacobsen:

Thank you very much, Governor. My name is Dan Jacobsen with Environment California. Today, just a few minutes ago, the Governor filed a petition with the federal government to protect 100 percent of California's 4.4 million acres of wild forests. We applaud the Governor for his work with the Bush Administration to make sure that we can protect these areas for future generations. And it's important today to recognize that the Governor is continuing his strong environmental leadership both at the state level and across the country. When it comes to this issue, the American people have spoken, and they have spoken loudly. Environment California and our sister organizations have collected over 1.4 million signatures into the US Forest Service with almost 200,000 coming from California, to say we support this area.

We really hope that today the Governor's petition will serve as a model for other governors across the country to petition for 100 percent protection as well. And we know that as long as there's an administration that is threatening California's public lands, we need a governor here in California who is going to fight back and stand up for those protections. We applaud you, Governor, and we thank you very much.


Governor: Thank you very much, everyone, and if you have any questions, please feel free. Yeah, please.

Q: Governor, is there any risk that the federal government will say no, or modify the petition in any way?

Governor: Well, I would say that nothing is easy, but I think that we will do it. I think that we will be able to protect our land, and this is the will of the people in California. Every state is different. You know, for other states maybe it doesn't mean as much. But, you know, the people in California And that's what is the challenge—it's a big challenge, but it is doable, and that's what I promised when I was elected, that I will do that, I will always look out for the environment—not that everyone always is the happiest with everything that I do, but we try to protect the environment and make sure that we keep this beautiful land the way it is. are very clear that we want to have growth, we want to have economic boom, we want to benefit from great revenues and all this, but at the same time protect the environment.

Q: Governor?

Governor: Yes, please.

Q: A couple of years ago your administration declined to file a similar petition on behalf of these Roadless Rules. Why did you not do it then, and why the decision now?

Governor: Well, I think timing is important. You know, there are certain priorities. We have so many things that we are working with the federal government on, and so we don't want to just throw everything at them. So it's one step at a time. You know, like for instance this last spring, what was important was for us to get the waiver and the MOU that we can go ahead and build our levees, like we started yesterday, and you were there. So I think that is the important thing, is if you do one step at a time.

But this is a very important issue for us. We want to keep this land, the National Forests, available. Like I said, 20 percent of it, so that we have it for future generations, because it is a place where we get our water from. Millions of people get their water from those areas. And it's great for recreation. I want my children to enjoy those forests, those National Forests. Everyone wants their children and their grandchildren, and grand-grandchildren to enjoy those forests rather than wiping them out. We have enough land available for construction and for development and for roads and all this, but let's put a certain percentage aside and protect that. And I am 100 percent behind that, and I will fight for that.

Anything else? Well, thank you very much, I appreciate it very much. Have a good day. Thank you.

For more information:

Photos of Forests