Today, at Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C., employees of the Environment and Natural Resources Division joined Washington Parks & People to plant trees, remove trash and invasive species, and spruce up the Josephine Butler Park Center. Continuing an ENRD tradition, it was the 14th consecutive year the Division’s staff have recognized Earth Day with local public service. Jeff Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, opened the event. Following below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Remarks by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood
Meridian Hill Park, Washington DC
April 21, 2017
Good morning. Thank you all for being here today.
Let me begin by thanking Washington Parks and People for partnering with us today. Steve, thank you.
I’d also like to give special thanks to some folks from our team at DOJ: Sue Lattin, Vanessa Robinson, Alea Cupe, Genevieve Clagett, Victoria Singletary, Joseph White, and John White, for their work in organizing this important public service opportunity.
For more than a decade, the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice has completed a public service project in the local Washington D.C. community to coincide with activities recognizing Earth Day. This has become a tradition at the Division, and many of our attorneys and staff have told me that this is a public service opportunity that they look forward to.
Today is, in fact, the Division’s 14th consecutive year volunteering with Washington Parks and People. By being here today, and year after year, the Division and its talented team of attorneys, paralegals, and staff demonstrate a high commitment to fulfilling our lawful mission of defending and enforcing our nation’s environmental and conservation laws.
This month alone, our Division has:
- prosecuted individuals responsible for unlawful acts that contaminated drinking water;
- led a national effort to combat illegal trafficking in protected fish and wildlife; and
- prosecuted those who defraud the U.S. Government, harm American taxpayers and consumers, and undermine energy and environmental laws enacted by Congress.
In addition, this week, as a result of the diligent work of our law enforcement team, a defendant was sentenced to pay a $40 million penalty for illegal dumping of waste into the ocean. This was the largest-ever penalty for crimes involving deliberate vessel pollution.
Tomorrow, April 22nd, is known by many as Earth Day. As we consider the Earth and our role in caring for it and our fellow man, and for making wise use of our God-given resources, it seems fitting to me that we should reflect on what is told to us in the Scriptures, where the Psalmist writes:
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein...
In light of this, we can understand that all of us have a God-given mission to make wise choices in how we take care of the land where we live, work, and play. We can make wise choices about how we steward the oceans, rivers, bays, and estuaries, and how we protect air quality. We can make wise use of abundant natural resources to help make life better for everyone. And we can be pro-active in preserving natural areas and conserving fish and wildlife. At the Environment and Natural Resources Division, we are privileged to be part of the lawful mission of this vital work every day.
It is also fitting for us to be here at Meridian Hill Park, a National Historic Landmark in our nation’s capital – a city established upon great rivers and home to people from all over the world. In 1901, the grounds for this park were purchased by the United States Government, which commissioned architects to design a grand, formal park modeled after the Renaissance and Italian gardens found in the world’s great capital cities. Meridian Hill was to be open to all people, a reflection of the values of our great Republic.
In1933, the grounds we stand on this morning were transferred to the National Park Service, and they are now part of Rock Creek Park, one of the many National Park Service sites located within the District of Columbia which, together, are enjoyed by over 40 million visitors annually from across the region and around the world.
Rock Creek Park is a great asset for our citizens, and we are blessed in America with tremendous national parks throughout our land, from coast to coast. Importantly, President Trump has designated this week as “National Park Week.” In his declaration, the President stated:
From their unsurpassed beauty to their unmatched physical challenges, our parks capture the spirit of America's pioneering history. They symbolize our ongoing commitment to the preservation of our land and wildlife, and they set the conservation standard for the rest of the world.
It is a priority of my Administration to protect these magnificent lands, and to ensure all Americans have access to our national parks, as well as to other National Park Service sites, throughout the next century…
The President concluded his declaration by stating:
It is my hope that we will pass down these natural and historic sites to our children and grandchildren.
Our team of exceptional lawyers and staff at the Justice Department has a central role to play in guaranteeing these words of our President.
Meridian Hill Park is also where Washington Parks got its start 25 years ago, cleaning up and transforming one of the single most violent parks in the capital region. It is now one of its safest. It is great to see all of the good work that is going into revitalizing parks and also into making sure that our communities are healthy, free, and safe from crime.
So, I would like to thank Washington Parks for its work in our community and to thank you, the ENRD staff, for your commitment to public service. I’m pleased to be here with you not only today, but also as we continue to work together to accomplish the important work of our Division in the months and years to come.
Before concluding, let me extend a warm welcome to our federal colleagues from the Department of the Interior, who have also joined us today. To you, we say, Happy National Park Week.
So, without further delay, thank you for this opportunity to join you all this morning.
Let’s get to work.
 WPP: Steve Coleman, Jeff Catts, Behnam Mehrabkhani, and Ken Barbour.
 Psalm 24:1 (ESV).