THIS WEEK AT INTERIOR, PART ONE OF OUR LOOK BACK AT SOME OF THE BIGGEST STORIES OF 20-13…
THIS YEAR THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE GOT ONE PARK *BIGGER*, AS *PINNACLES MONUMENT* IN CALIFORNIA BECAME THE NATION'S 59TH NATIONAL PARK… STATE AND FEDERAL OFFICIALS SAY THE NEW DESIGNATION, WILL ENSURE THAT PINNACLES GETS THE NATIONAL ATTENTION IT DESERVES.
AND THAT'S NOT ALL… PRESIDENT OBAMA DESIGNATED FIVE NEW NATIONAL *MONUMENTS*, IN DELAWARE, MARYLAND, NEW MEXICO, WASHINGTON, AND OHIO... AND FINALLY, 13 NEW *NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS* WERE ADDED, LANDMARKS THAT TELL THE STORY OF AMERICA FROM THE CIVIL WAR, THROUGH PROHIBITION, TO THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS AND NATIONAL IDENTITY IN MODERN AMERICA… IN LOCATIONS THAT SPAN THE NATIONAL MAP FROM PUERTO RICO TO KENTUCKY, NEW JERSEY TO EASTERN OKLAHOMA AND MANY OTHERS IN BETWEEN, BRINGING THE LIST OF NATIONAL PARKS AND MONUMENTS TO FOUR HUNDRED AND ONE. AND ALL THOSE SITES ARE NOT JUST A SOURCE OF PRIDE, REMEMBRANCE, OR INSPIRATION…. A NATIONAL PARK SERVICE STUDY IN 2013 SHOWED THAT ALL TOGETHER, THE NATION'S PARKS AND LANDMARKS WERE A POWERFUL ECONOMIC ENGINE, GENERATING MORE THAN 30-BILLION DOLLARS FOR THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITIES, AND SUPPORTING MORE THAN A QUARTER MILLION JOBS.
AFTER MORE THAN FOUR YEARS AT THE HELM OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR STEPPED DOWN TO RETURN TO HIS HOME STATE OF COLORADO. SALAZAR HELPED GUIDE THE DEPARTMENT THROUGH A TRANSFORMATIVE TIME, AND WAS PRAISED FOR HIS SERVICE BY PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHO SERVED TOGETHER WITH SALAZAR WHEN BOTH WERE FRESHMEN SENATORS IN 2005.
I came to appreciate quickly not just his friendship -- which, if you've got Ken Salazar as a friend, you've got a real friend. Not only did I come to appreciate his jump shot -- he is surprisingly quick on the court -- (laughter) -- but also his patriotism, and his belief that we've got a responsibility to care for the land with which we've been blessed.
IN A FINAL MESSAGE TO INTERIOR EMPLOYEES, SALAZAR THANKED THEM FOR WHAT HE CALLED A WONDERFUL AND JOYFUL RIDE.
From sea to shining sea and out into the oceans, you take care of America's natural resources, and America's heritage. I'm proud of you. I'm humbled and privileged to of had the honor to work with all of you for four years and three months. I will always remember the journey, and both the journey and the dream will continue on into the future.
MEANWHILE A HEARTY AND HEARTFELT WELCOME FOR THE *51ST* SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR. EMPLOYEES REPRESENTING ALL OF INTERIOR'S BUREAUS AND AGENCIES CHEERED AS *SALLY JEWELL* ARRIVED IN APRIL FOR HER FIRST FULL DAY ON THE JOB... AND SHE TOLD THE CROWD OF WELL WISHERS HOW MUCH SHE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO WORKING WITH THEM AS HER COLLEAGUES.
This is my first shot at public service. You are all public servants, and there is no higher calling than the work that you all do, and it is a privilege and pleasure to be among you....Thank you for this warm welcome...thank you for everything that you do...and let's have some fun together.
OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS IN 2013 JEWELL TRAVELED EXTENSIVELY ACROSS LANDS AND WATERS OVERSEEN BY INTERIOR... FROM THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES AND GULF COAST REGION UNDERGOING INTENSE RESTORATION EFFORTS… THROUGH WESTERN STATES UNDER CONSTANT THREAT OF WILDFIRES AND FACING WATER CHALLENGES, BUT ALSO OFFERING NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENERGY PRODUCTION… SHE TOUTED THE POSITIVE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF WILDLIFE REFUGES … AND PROMOTED INDIAN EDUCATION ON THE TRIBAL LANDS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS AND NEW MEXICO… SHE SAW FIRSTHAND THE THREAT OF COASTAL EROSION ON THE FROZEN SHORES OF ALASKA -- MEANWHILE GETTING UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH A GROUP OF ENDANGERED POLAR BEARS. SHE SPOKE WITH VETERANS OF THE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR IN HAWAII, AND REMEMBERED THE VICTIMS OF THE 9/11 ATTACKS IN A FIELD IN PENNSYLVANIA… AND EVERYWHERE SHE WENT, SHE WORKED TO PROMOTE YOUTH INVOLVEMENT IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS… AND LAID OUT HER CONSERVATION VISION IN AN OCTOBER SPEECH AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB.
We're continuing to move ahead in fulfilling our mission at the Department. As stewards of our public lands, waters and wildlife; in partnership with tribal nations, states, and stakeholders, we will meet the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the rich legacy we pass on to future generations. This is our commitment to all Americans and my personal commitment to you.
BUT THAT COMMITMENT WAS UNDER CONSTANT THREAT IN 2013, THANKS TO THE BUDGET WOES INFLICTED ON INTERIOR BY MANDATORY, ACROSS THE BOARD BUDGET CUTS KNOWN AS THE SEQUESTER… IT WAS ALL PART OF A BUDGET DEAL THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TOO EXTREME TO BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. BUT IT *DID* HAPPEN, AND THE EFFECTS WERE FELT IMMEDIATELY ON PUBLIC LANDS, WHERE THOSE CUTS MEANT REDUCED HOURS OF OPERATION, SHORTER SEASONS, THE CLOSURE OF CAMPGROUNDS, HIKING TRAILS, AND OTHER RECREATIONAL AREAS… ALL OF IT POSING A POTENTIALLY DEVASTATING IMPACT ON LOCAL COMMUNITIES FROM COAST TO COAST. THE BUDGET BATTLE CAME TO A HEAD AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER, WHEN LAWMAKERS FAILED TO APPROPRIATE ENOUGH FUNDING FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO REMAIN IN OPERATION… AND THUS BEGAN WHAT WOULD EVENTUALLY BE A 16-DAY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. NATIONAL PARKS, MONUMENTS, PUBLIC LANDS, WILDLIFE REFUGES, ENERGY BUREAUS, AND BIA OFFICES COAST TO COAST... ALL OF THEM CLOSED FOR BUSINESS UNTIL MID-OCTOBER. AFTER THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT REOPENED, SECRETARY JEWELL MET WITH AND WELCOMED BACK INTERIOR EMPLOYEES.
You know, if there's one silver lining in this shutdown, it is that the value that you bring to this country and to the American people is far more evident now that it was before the shutdown. So I hope that when you come back, you come back with pride, you come back with enthusiasm…I appreciate that the uncertainty was very hard on you and very hard on your families. And I am just so happy that we are all back at work.
MUCH BETTER NEWS IN 2013 FOR TWO BELOVED SYMBOLS OF AMERICAN HISTORY AND PATRIOTISM… EARLY IN 2013 OFFICIALS ANNOUNCED THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WOULD RE-OPEN FOR TOURISTS BY INDEPENDENCE DAY. LIBERTY ISLAND TOOK A BEATING FROM HURRICANE SANDY IN OCTOBER 2012, WITH DOCKS DESTROYED AND ENERGY AND SECURITY INFRASTRUCTURE HEAVILY DAMAGED. BUT 2013 SAW TREMENDOUS PROGRESS IN THE REPAIR EFFORT, CLEARING THE WAY FOR SECRETARY JEWELL TO JOIN NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE OFFICIALS, AND OTHERS FOR A CEREMONIAL RIBBON CUTTING TO MARK THE STATUE'S RE-OPENING, RIGHT ON SCHEDULE, ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.
AND MAJOR PROGRESS ON ANOTHER MONUMENTAL REPAIR EFFORT, THIS ONE IN INTERIOR'S FRONT YARD… IN 2013 WORKERS BUILT A MASSIVE SCAFFOLDING STRUCTURE ENCLOSING THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT. THE 555-FOOT TALL MARBLE OBELISK WAS HEAVILY DAMAGED IN AUGUST 2011, WHEN A MAGNITUDE 5-POINT-8 EARTHQUAKE RATTLED THE EAST COAST FROM VIRGINIA TO NEW ENGLAND. WITH THE SCAFFOLDING IN PLACE THE EFFORT TO REPAIR OR REPLACE ALL THE DAMAGED STONES GOT UNDERWAY… ALL THE WHILE THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SAW TO IT THAT THE MONUMENT'S ESTHETICS WOULDN'T OFFEND THE EYE OF THE MILLIONS OF TOURISTS WHO FLOCK TO THE NATIONAL MALL EACH YEAR… THE SCAFFOLDING WAS WRAPPED IN A SPECIALLY DESIGNED FABRIC, AND IN JULY LIGHTS WERE ADDED AND ILLUMINATED, MAKING A SPECTACULAR MONUMENT JUST A LITTLE MORE SPECTACULAR.
One is that the National Park Service takes very seriously our job of taking care of these incredible American icons…the second is…we care how we look while we're working. And we want it to look attractive to the American public…because it's going to look like this at least for the next twelve months.
SPECIAL THANKS WENT OUT TO PHILANTHROPIST DAVID RUBENSTEIN, WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE REPAIR PROJECT.
It's my great privilege and pleasure to be able to do something very modest to give back to my country something that will help make sure that everyone gets to enjoy this terrific monument for many generations into the future.
BY YEAR'S END WITH THEIR MISSION COMPLETE, THE LIGHTS WERE OFF, AND SCAFFOLDING WAS COMING DOWN. OFFICIALS SAY THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT IS ON SCHEDULE TO BE FULLY RESTORED, AND OPEN ONCE MORE TO THE PUBLIC, BY THE SPRING OF 2014.
THAT'S A LOOK BACK AT SOME OF THE BIGGEST STORIES OF 2013, STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO NEXT WEEK… ON THIS WEEK, AT INTERIOR.