Old Faithful and bison would be protected under a plan to preserve 9,300 acres next to Yellowstone National Park, President Clinton announced today.
"Permanently protecting these lands will help to ensure the survival of the bison and other herds that roam the wilds of Yellowstone," the president said in his weekly radio address, recorded from his vacation spot on Martha's Vineyard. "And by removing a threat to the underground springs that feed Yellowstone's geysers, we'll ensure that Old Faithful remains faithful for years to come."
Clinton called on the Republican-led Congress to fund his entire $1 billion "Lands Legacy" proposal, which would protect dozens of sites throughout the nation from development. Thus far, Congress has cut the proposal by more than two-thirds, he said.
In response, Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) said "there isn't a single aspect" of the GOP tax-cut plan that will hurt the environment.
The U.S. Forest Service, working with the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, will spend $13 million to obtain "conservation easements" on 9,300 acres of the Royal Teton Ranch, north of Yellowstone.
Yellowstone has struggled in recent years to accommodate growing numbers of visitors, and some bison that strayed outside the park in search of grazing lands have been killed by ranchers who fear the spread of disease to livestock.
A White House statement said the new easements will "preserve important habitat and migration corridors for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears and other wildlife," and also "provide new recreation opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters and anglers."
Washington-based Defenders of Wildlife praised the announcement, saying it "will be historic . . . if land legacy proves to be one of the administration's successful priorities for the rest of this Congress."
Citing the nation's tradition of preserving open spaces, Clinton said, "In too many places, vital pieces of this heritage are disappearing. Once lost, they can't be replaced."
Five sites in Virginia and four in Maryland are among those the president has targeted for federal protection.
They include $6.3 million for Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania National Military Park and $1 million for Prince William Forest Park in Virginia. Maryland proposals include $2 million for the Antietam National Battlefield and $1.5 million for the Monocacy National Battlefield.