20th Anniversary of the Lake Tahoe Summit

The President: Hello, Tahoe! This is really nice. I will be coming
here more often. (applause) My transportation
won’t be as nice — (laughter) — but I’ll be able to spend
a little more time here. First of all, I want
to thank Harry Reid. (applause) And because he’s a captive
audience, he doesn’t usually like people talking about
him, but he’s stuck here, and so I’m going to talk
about him for a second. Harry grew up in a town
that didn’t have much. No high school, no
doctor’s office. Searchlight sure didn’t have
much grass to mow or many trees to climb. It didn’t look like this. So when Harry discovered a
lush desert oasis down the road called Piute
Spring, he fell in love. And when Harry met Landra,
the love of his life, he couldn’t wait to
take her there. But when he got to the
green spring that Harry remembered, he was
devastated to see that the place had been trashed. And that day, Harry became
an environmentalist — and he’s been working hard
ever since to preserve the natural gifts of Nevada
and these United States of America. (applause) So Harry has protected fish
and wildlife across the state. He helped to end a
century-old water war. He created Nevada’s first
and only national park. Right after I took office,
the very first act Harry’s Senate passed was one of the
most important conservation efforts in a generation. We protected more than 2
million acres of wilderness and thousands of miles
of trails and rivers. That was because
of Harry Reid. (applause) Last summer, thanks to
Harry Reid’s leadership, we protected more than 700,000
acres of mountains and valleys right here in
Nevada, establishing the Basin and Range
National Monument. Two decades ago, the senator
from Searchlight trained a national spotlight right
here, on Lake Tahoe. And as he prepares to ride
off into the sunset — although I don’t want him
getting on a horse — (laughter) — this 20th anniversary
summit proves that the light Harry lit shines
as bright as ever. (applause) Now, in a few months, I’ll
be riding off into that same sunset. (laughter) Audience: Booo — The President: No, it’s true. It’s okay. I mean, I’m still going to
— I’m going to be coming around, I told you. I just won’t
have Marine One. (laughter) I’ll be driving. But let me tell you, one of
the great pleasures of being President is having strong
relationships with people who do the right thing. They get criticized, they’ve
got a tough job, but they get in this tough business
because ultimately they care about this country and they
care about the people they represent. And that is true of
Dianne Feinstein. (applause) That is true of
Barbara Boxer. That is true of the
outstanding governor of California, Jerry Brown. (applause) That’s true of our
outstanding folks who work for the Department of
Interior and work for — who help look after our forests
and help look after our national parks that help
manage our water and try to conserve the wildlife and
the birds, and all the things that we want to pass
on to the next generation. And so I’m going to miss the
day-to-day interactions that I’ve gotten. And I’ll miss Harry,
even though he’s not a sentimental guy. (laughter) We were talking backstage —
anybody who’s ever gotten on the phone with Harry
Reid, you’ll be making conversation, and once he’s
kind of finished with the whole point of the
conversation, you’ll still be talking and you
realize he’s hung up. (laughter) And he does that to the
President of the United States. (laughter) And it takes you, like,
three of four of these conversations to realize
he’s not mad at you, but he doesn’t have much
patience for small talk. But Harry is tough. I believe he is going to
go down as one of the best leaders the Senate ever had. (applause) I could not have
accomplished what I accomplished without
him being at my side. So I want to say publicly,
to the people of Nevada, to the people of Lake Tahoe,
to the people of America: I could not be prouder to
have worked alongside the Democratic Leader of
the Senate, Harry Reid. Give him a big
round of applause. (applause) So, it’s special to stand on
the shores of Lake Tahoe. I’ve never been here. Audience: Oooh — The President: No — it’s not like I didn’t want to come. (laughter) Nobody invited me. (laughter) I didn’t know if I
had a place to stay. So now that I’ve finally
got here, I’m going to come back. (applause) And I want to come back not
just because it’s beautiful, not just because — Audience Member: We love you! The President: Well, not
just because I love you back. (laughter) Not just because The
Godfather II is maybe my favorite movie. (applause) As I was flying over the
lake, I was thinking about Fredo. (laughter) He’s tough. But this place is
spectacular because it is one of the highest, deepest,
oldest and purest lakes in the world. (applause) It’s been written that the
lake’s waters were once so clear that when you were out
on a boat, you felt like you were floating in a balloon. Unless you were Fredo. (laughter) It’s been written that the
air here is so fine, it must be “the same air that
the angels breathe.” So it’s no wonder that for
thousands of years, this place has been
a spiritual one. For the Washoe people, it is
the center of their world. (applause) And just as this space is
sacred to Native Americans, it should be sacred
to all Americans. And that’s why we’re here:
To protect this pristine place. To keep these waters
crystal clear. To keep the air as
pure as the heavens. To keep alive
Tahoe’s spirit. And to keep faith with this
truth — that the challenges of conservation and
combatting climate change are connected,
they’re linked. Audience Member: (inaudible) The President: Okay. I’m sorry, I — Audience Member: (inaudible) The President: I gotcha, okay. I gotcha. Thank you, that’s
a great banner. I’m about to talk about
it though, so you’re interrupting me. Now, I was going talk about
climate change and why it’s so important. You know, we tend to think
of climate change as if it’s something that’s just
happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is
that it is manmade. It’s not “we think”
it’s manmade. It’s not “we guess”
it’s manmade. It’s not “a lot of people
are saying” it’s manmade. It’s not “I’m not a
scientist, so I don’t know.” You don’t have to
be a scientist. You have to read or
listen to scientists — (applause) — to know that the
overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows
us that climate change is caused by human activity. And when we protect our
lands, it helps us protect the climate for the future. So conservation is critical
not just for one particular spot, one particular park,
one particular lake. It’s critical for
our entire ecosystem. And conservation is more
than just putting up a plaque and calling
something a park. (applause) We embrace conservation
because healthy and diverse lands and waters help us
build resilience to climate change. We do it to free more of our
communities and plants and animals and species from
wildfires, and droughts, and displacement. We do it because when most
of the 4.5 million people who come to Lake Tahoe every
year are tourists, economies like this one live or die by
the health of our natural resources. (applause) We do it because places like
this nurture and restore the soul. And we want to make sure
that’s there for our kids, too. (applause) As a former Washoe Tribe
leader once said, “The health of the land and the
health of the people are tied together, and what
happens to the land also happens to the people.” So that’s why we’ve worked
so hard — everybody on this stage, Harry’s leadership,
the work we’ve done in our administration — to
preserve treasures like this for future generations. And we’ve proven that
the choice between our environment, our economy,
and our health is a false one. We’ve got to strengthen
all of them together. (applause) In the 20 years since
President Clinton and Senator Reid started this
summit, federal, state, and local leaders have worked
together to restore wetlands and habitats, improve roads,
reduce pollution, and prevent wildfires. And that last point is
especially important because of the severe drought that
all of you know and you can see with your own eyes. A single wildfire in a
dangerously flammable Lake Tahoe Basin could cause
enough erosion to erase decades of progress when
it comes to water quality. And the drought also
endangers one of the epicenters of the world’s
food production in California. A changing climate threatens
even the best conservation efforts. Keep in mind, 2014 was the
warmest year on record until, you guessed it, 2015. And now 2016 is on
pace to be even hotter. For 14 months in a row now,
the Earth has broken global temperature records. Lake Tahoe’s average
temperature is rising at its fastest rate ever, and its
temperature is the warmest on record. And because climate and
conservation are challenges that go hand in hand, our
conservation mission is more urgent than ever. Everybody who is here,
including those who are very eager for me to finish so
that they can listen to the Killers — (laughter) — I’ve only got
a few more pages. Our conservation effort is
more critical, more urgent than ever. And we made this a
priority from day one. We, as Harry mentioned,
protected more acres of public lands and water
than any administration in history. (applause) Now, last week alone, we
protected land, water, and wildlife from
Maine to Hawaii — (applause) — including the creation of
the world’s largest marine protected area. And, apropos of the young
lady’s sign, we’ve been working on climate
change on every front. We’ve worked to generate
more clean energy, use less dirty energy, waste
less energy overall. In my first months in
office, Harry helped America make the single largest
investment in renewable energy in our history. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara
Boxer have been at the forefront of this. Jerry Brown has been doing
incredible legislative work in his state. These investments have
helped drive down the cost of clean power, so it’s
finally cheaper than dirty power in a lot of places. It helps us multiply wind
power threefold; solar power more than thirtyfold. It’s created tens of
thousands of good jobs. It’s adding to paychecks,
subtracting from energy bills. It’s been the smart
and right thing to do. (applause) And then one year ago this
month, we finalized a Clean Power Plan that spurs new
sources of energy and gives states the tools to limit
pollution that power plants spew into the sky. As I mentioned, last week
California passed an ambitious plan to
cut carbon pollute. And, Jerry, I know you agree
that more states need to follow California’s lead. (applause) On a national level, we’ve
enacted tough fuel-economy standards for cars, which
means you’re going to be able to drive further
on a gallon of gas. It’s going to save your
pocketbook and save the environment. We followed that up with the
first-ever standards for commercial trucks,
vans, and buses. And as a consequence, during
the first half of this year, carbon pollution hit its
lowest level in a quarter century. (applause) And, by the way, during the
same time, we’ve had the longest streak of job
creation on record. The auto industry
is booming. There is no contradiction
between being smart on the environment and having a
strong economy, and we got to keep it going. (applause) So this isn’t just a
challenge, this is an opportunity. And today in Tahoe,
we’re taking three more significant steps to boost
conservation and climate action. First, we’re supporting
conservation projects across Nevada to restore
watersheds, stop invasive species, and further reduce
the risks posed by hazardous fuels and wildfires. (applause) Number two, we’re
incentivizing private capital to come off the
sidelines and contribute to conservation, because
government can’t do it alone. Number three, in partnership
with California, we’re going to reverse the deterioration
of the Salton Sea before it is too late, and that’s
going to help a lot of folks all across the West. (applause) So, we’re busy. And from here, I’m going to
travel to my original home state of Hawaii, where the
United States is proud to host the World Conservation
Congress for the first time. Tomorrow, I’m going to go
to Midway to visit the vast marine area that we just
create and to honor those who sacrificed their lives
to protect our freedom. (applause) Then I head to China, with
whom we’ve partnered — as the world’s two largest
economies and two largest carbon emitters — to set
historic climate targets that are going to lead the
rest of the world to a cleaner, more secure future. (applause) So I just go back to that
quote by the Washoe elder: “What happens to the land
also happens to the people.” I’ve made it a priority in
my presidency to protect the natural resources we’ve
inherited because we shouldn’t be the
last to enjoy them. Just as the health of the
land and the people are tied together, just as climate
and conservation are tied together, we share a sacred
connection with those who are going to follow us. I think about my
two daughters. I think about Harry’s
19 grandchildren. (laughter) He’s been — yeah, that’s
a lot of grandkids. (laughter) The future generations who
deserve clear water and clean air that will sustain
their bodies and sustain their souls — jewels
like Lake Tahoe. And it’s not going to
happen without hard work. It sure is not going to
happen if we pretend a snowball in winter
means nothing is wrong. It’s not going to happen if
we boast about how we’re going to scrap international
treaties, or have elected officials who are alone in
the world in denying climate change, or put our energy
and environmental policies in the hands of
big polluters. It’s not going to happen if
we just pay lip service to conservation but then
refuse to do what’s needed. When scientists first told
us that our planet was changing because of human
activity, it was received as a bombshell. But in a way, we shouldn’t
have been surprised. The most important changes
are always the changes made by us. And the fact that we’ve
been able to grow our clean energy economy proves that
we have agency, we’ve got power. Diminishing carbon pollution
proves we can do something about it. Our healing of Lake Tahoe
proves it’s within our power to pass on the incredible
bounty of this country to a next generation. (applause) Our work isn’t done. And so after I leave office,
and Harry leaves office, and Barbara — she’s going to
be right alongside us, on a slightly smaller horse — (laughter) — because she’s got to get
up on top of it — after we’ve all left office, the
charge to continue to make positive change is going to
be in all of our hands, as citizens. I always say the most
important office in a democracy is the
office of citizen. Change happens
because of you. Don’t forget that. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. (applause)

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