Remarks to State and Local Officials in Tilghman Island, Maryland

July 10, 1984

The President. Thank you all very much, and it really is a pleasure to be here. And I think all of us owe a special thanks to the ladies of the auxiliary for the fine meal that they've prepared for us today.

Well, this has been a most informative visit, and I've appreciated meeting with you and having this opportunity to learn about how you earn your livelihood and about this unique area. You already know how I earn mine. [Laughter]

And I've enjoyed very much breaking bread with you in this particular building. My father was a member of a volunteer fire department in my hometown when I was a lad. And the thousands of volunteer fire departments across America symbolize, I think, the strong sense of community, which is such an admirable part of our American character. By getting involved and working together, we Americans have always been confident that we can do whatever has to be done. And that confidence is kind of an American trait.

I remember many years ago, when I was that high and Americans first began kind of touring and going back to the old country to see where they or their ancestors had come from. At first we weren't too welcome in those countries, because we seemed kind of brash and maybe a little overconfident to the people there. And I remember one story of a farm couple from the Midwest who went back and were in Italy and the guide was telling them about the volcano there and how much power was generated and the tremendous heat and so forth when this erupted and all the things it did. And this old boy listened just about as long as he could. And then he said, ``We got a volunteer fire department at home, put that thing out in 15 minutes.'' [Laughter]

But, as I was saying about cooperation, that spirit of cooperation is certainly manifesting itself in the efforts to save one of the country's most precious national treasures, the Chesapeake Bay.

I know that Mac Mathias and John Warner, Marjorie Holt, Herb Bateman, worked closely with the White House and along with Roy Dyson successfully secured congressional support for the bay. And on the executive side, Bill Ruckelshaus, over at EPA, has made this a priority project.

I also want to extend a hearty word of congratulations and thanks to Governors Hughes, Robb, and Thornburgh for their magnificent cooperation. Having been a Governor myself, I know how difficult it is to do this sort of thing without getting bogged down in bureaucratic back and forth. But with their leadership, these three Governors have put their States in the forefront of a very worthy and productive endeavor.

And this same good will can be found among all concerned, whether in Federal, State, or local government, or in the private sector. Saving the bay has united a coalition of diverse interests and activated a broad range of individuals. I know, for example, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has over 1,300 volunteer bay watchers in the region. And there's also been much more done by groups like Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation. All of us working together not only can save the bay; we're going to save the bay and restore it.

Now, H.L. Mencken, that spirited newspaperman from Baltimore, once labeled the bay ``a great big protein factory.'' Well, Mencken is known to have enjoyed oysters on the halfshell and steamed crabs. There are tales about the invigorating powers of the oyster known even back as far as the days of Thomas Jefferson -- not that he told me personally. [Laughter] But many of you may be related to the people who provided Mencken with those shellfish. This is more than an income for you, it's a way of life. And believe me, we aren't going to let anything destroy it.

Clearly the time for action is now. The oyster crop and the crab harvest are down. Other statistics like those concerning the decline of the striped bass are also cause for concern. This is not a question of environmental concerns versus economic development. We can and will preserve the bay without hurting the economy or stopping growth. In fact, much of the economic vitality of this region depends on conserving the bay and its many resources.

I made a commitment to do this in my State of the Union Message, and the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior are fully behind our effort. I can promise you today the Federal Government will do its utmost to cooperate with all concerned in a balanced and effective program to protect the bay. Conservation like this is not partisan politics; it's common sense.

Of course, we're talking about more than a bay. We're talking about a body of water that nurtured those hardy souls in the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown. We're speaking of a body of water that served as a vehicle for commerce for the middle colonies, enabling our young country to grow and prosper. This body of water means a livelihood to many of you and is a source of recreation and enjoyment for millions of Americans. It's our responsibility to pass on to our children in America, as free and strong as what was passed to us, and also to pass on to the next generation in America as beautiful and productive an America as the one that we were handed. We mean to do just that. And with your strong support, I know we will.

And I've enjoyed this chance to get acquainted with you. God bless you all.

And I would like to present two flags that have flown over the White House. One is for the volunteer fire department -- here. And the other is for a park that I understand is just across the way.

William Blades. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

And, Mr. President, there's supposed to be a bushel of crabs in here now, but it's -- [laughter]. Anyway, we regret that Mrs. Reagan couldn't come with you. And we're sending back to the White House with you a bushel of hard crabs and two dozen soft crabs. And we thank you for coming, sir.

The President. Well, I certainly appreciate that. And I want you to know if they're not here right now, it's because -- if I know those fellows of mine -- somebody's intercepted them and said, ``Let's get them on the helicopter!'' [Laughter]

Mr. Blades. Here they come.

The President. Oh, here they come.

Mr. Blades. They bite you. Watch it, they bite.

The President. Oh, yeah. I'm not going after them barehanded. [Laughter]

Mr. Blades. That's the soft crabs.

The President. I can touch those. Well, thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:43 p.m. following a luncheon in the Tilghman Volunteer Fire Department building. Among the guests at the luncheon were Governors Harry R. Hughes of Maryland, Charles S. Robb of Virginia, and Richard L. Thornburgh of Pennsylvania. Mr. Blades is president of the Tilghman Volunteer Fire Department.

Prior to the luncheon, the President visited the town's Dogwood Harbor Wharf, where he talked with local watermen.

Earlier in the day, the President began his visit to Maryland's Eastern Shore with a stop at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. While there he received briefings from Under Secretary of the Interior Anne D. McLaughlin and refuge manager Don Perkuchin on endangered species and new acquisitions. He then viewed the refuge from an observation tower.

Following the luncheon, the President returned to Washington, DC.