Secretary Salazar remarks at Interior anniversary
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speaks at the 160th anniversary of the Interior Department
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. March 3, 2009. Photo © NSM.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar delivered the following remarks on the 160th anniversary of the Interior Department. President Barack Obama also spoke at the event.

Welcome to the celebration of the 160th Anniversary of the Department of the Interior.

The Department of the Interior’s history mirrors the story of our nation. We have changed as America has changed. We have taken on new challenges and responsibilities as the issues facing our nation and world have evolved with time.

We have been entrusted to serve as the stewards of America the Beautiful: purple mountains; fruited plains; and the landmarks of our history and the icons of our heritage.

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.

Along the way, our nation has passed through times of deep crisis. A war between the states. Thirteen economic recessions. The Great Depression.

But with each crisis, this Department of the Interior has helped our nation not only persevere, but grow stronger.

At the dawn of the 20th Century, when America was losing its forests, wildlife, and open spaces, President Teddy Roosevelt turned an environmental crisis into the legacy of stewardship we enjoy today. He expanded our national parks, laying the foundation for our modern day National Park System. And he built the world’s largest system of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation: the National Wildlife Refuge System.

In the dark years of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps put three million people to work on conservation and construction projects in our parks, refuges and public works around America.

When faced with a crisis, Americans always build a path to progress. And we will do the same as we face the economic crisis of today.

President Barack Obama and the American people have entrusted this Department with the responsibility of helping lead our country back to prosperity and economic security.

Since the President signed the Recovery Act two weeks ago, we have been working tirelessly to finalize a list of projects so that we can rapidly and wisely invest the $3 billion coming through the Department of the Interior.

These projects must be ready go. They must create jobs. And they must advance our nation’s long-term priorities.

We will act with a vision that allows us, as President Franklin Roosevelt did in the 1930’s, to transform the crisis of today into the opportunity of tomorrow.

When future generations look back, I want them to see that we didn’t simply talk about renewable energy and energy efficiency: we took action.

I want them to see that we restored our national treasures and icons - from the Statue of Liberty in New York to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

And I want generations that follow to see that we used this moment to encourage a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps for our young people. From the jobs we create in Native American communities, to the work that is done to build new trails across our country, our young people will be a keystone of our recovery.

But the Recovery Act is only the first step. Today, as the Department of the Interior celebrates its 160th birthday, we look forward to a new era of change for our nation and for our department.

That new era will have us play a central role in building our clean energy economy and tackling climate change. That new era will usher in an unprecedented commitment to preserving America’s treasured landscapes. And that new era will usher in new responsibilities and opportunities for the young people of America.

This is a moment of change.

That is why the work of the 67,000 public servants in this Department is so exciting, and so important to our country. That is why I am so proud of your work.

And that is why I am so honored that we are joined today - on the 160th birthday of the Department of the Interior - by the President of the United States of America: Barack Obama.

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