Clinton Orders Beach Cleanup

President Clinton issued three directives Saturday to protect miles of government-run beaches and help clean waterways and demanded that Congress stop making "sneak attacks on our environment."

In his weekly radio address delivered from a vast wildlife preserve, Clinton said he was directing the National Park Service to expand health protections along seashores managed by the federal government, including beaches along Cape Cod, Mass., and Cape Hatteras, N.C., and Point Reyes National Seashore 30 miles north of San Francisco.

He also told all federal agencies to adopt "a comprehensive strategy to better safeguard rivers and other bodies of water on federal lands." In addition, he directed the Environmental Protection Agency to develop stronger ways to prevent sewage spills, a major cause of beach closures. Last year, 350 of 1,062 beaches surveyed by the EPA reported closures or health advisories due to pollution.

"We often speak of building a country where our children have an opportunity to do even better than we've done," Clinton said. "We know our children cannot do better tomorrow if we're willing to squander precious environmental resources today."

Environmentalists welcomed Clinton's announcement.

Tryg Sletteland, director of the Pacific Rivers Council in Portland, Ore., said the new initiative should reduce pollution of lakes and streams from timber cutting and cattle grazing on public lands.

"It's going to bring the federal agencies into better compliance with federal laws. This is long overdue," said Sletteland.

Actor Ted Danson, president of the American Oceans Campaign, said the new plan will help reduce beach water pollution. "We hope it will set an example for state and municipal beaches," he said.

The president spoke from his vacation hideaway at White Oak Plantation, perched along the banks of the St. Marys River near the Georgia-Florida border. He and his wife, Hillary, arrived Tuesday and have not left the grounds, preferring to golf, ride bikes, read books and watch the wild animals that roam the 7,500-acre compound. The Clintons return Sunday to Washington.

Â"Our visit here reminds us once again what a gift it is to spend time outdoors, to walk among tall trees, to see wild animals and rare birds, to watch the sun set and the stars come out over a beautiful river,Â" Clinton said. Â"It also makes us appreciate the generations of Americans who fought to preserve the parklands and the beaches we all enjoy today.Â"

But Clinton said those efforts are being jeopardized by Republican congressional leaders' budget allocations, which he said would stall cleanups of toxic waste sites, limit access to national parks and weaken clean water protections.

Â"We've already seen troubling signs that Congress again will try to gut environmental protections by tacking provisions called riders on to their budget bills, Clinton said. Â"I urge Congress to end these sneak attacks on our environment once and for all.Â"

Written by Sonya Ross
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