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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Opening of Smithsonian Natural History Museum exhibit
"America's Wildest Places" featuring America's Byways™
Wednesday, November 5, 2003

On behalf of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, I am pleased to join Cristian Samper, Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Steve Williams, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. We are celebrating the opening of "America's Wildest Places: Our National Wildlife Refuge System" and the unique partnership among our organizations.

We join with our partners today to encourage everyone to visit this exciting exhibit. We hope the American public will learn about the 100-year history of the world's most unique network of lands set aside for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. The exhibit is a treat for those who appreciate the natural beauty and grandeur of America and who are intrigued by fascinating wildlife.

We hope those who visit will be inspired to explore these great recreational opportunities on their own, or with family and friends, and take one of America's Byways™ that lead to some of "America's Wildest Places." The National Scenic Byways Program began in 1992, and 11 years later we have 96 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 39 states. Travelers will gain a deeper understanding of the land and people who came before. Exhibits like this and the stories it tells encourage us to preserve our best resources for generations to come.

Leisure travelers are driving more, and in a recent AAA survey of "Why people enjoy car trips," 49 percent of the respondents said it was because of the "sights and experiences along the way."

Byways and Refuges offer visitors unique experiences. Bring your family to the Indian River Lagoon Scenic Byway and find out about the first national wildlife refuge, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Or drive along Alaska's breathtaking Seward Highway to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and see loons and raptors along the way.

President Bush speaks of environmental stewardship as both a personal responsibility and a public value, noting, "Americans are united in the belief that we must preserve our natural heritage and safeguard the land around us." The Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Highways, and the Smithsonian share that commitment to conserving the land and preserving natural habitats. Exhibits like this and the stories that it tells encourage us to enjoy our natural wonders today and protect them for every generation to come.

Secretary Mineta says that mobility is "one of our greatest freedoms." Let's encourage Americans to exercise their freedom and travel on a byway to experience first hand some of "America's Wildest Places."

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