Bush praises his own record on environment for Earth Day

President George W Bush praised his Administration's record on the environment at an Earth Day event this week saying that, since 2001 "the condition of America's land, air and water has improved".

Speaking at a wetlands event in Wells, Maine, Mr Bush said his Government could claim credit for "some of the most important anti-pollution policies in a decade", and announced a goal of creating or preserving three million acres of wetland over the next five years.

This goal was soon called into question by former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head, Carol Browner. Reuters news agency reported that she told journalists that Bush had redefined wetlands so that nearly half of US wetland areas were no longer protected by the EPA.

Other critics said Bush chose wetlands as they were popular with fishermen and hunters, who are a key Republican constituency. Philip Clapp, President of the Environmental Trust, said: "President Bush picked wetlands as his Earth Day topic for blatantly political reasons: he's had an earful from hunters and anglers that an important part of his base is pretty outraged at his environmental record. But as usual, the President is making big promises that his Administration is already undermining. The wetlands protection guidance his EPA gives to the states actually encourages destruction of wetlands."

Bush's environmental record was also challenged by the Sierra Club, who have released a new book to coincide with Earth Day, called Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress.

Sierra Club President, Carl Pope, one of the authors of the book, said: "Bush has done his best, in only three years, to break our national compact on environmental progress and turn the clock back, not years or decades, but a full century."

He claims Bush is the first president since Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, to finish his first term with the country worse off ecologically than it was when he arrived.

Senator John Kerry, Bush's rival for the coming Presidential election, also knocked the President's record, saying he makes environmental policy based on the desires of big money interests.

Speaking to a crowd at President Bush's former home town, Senator Kerry said: "You've got to give George Bush credit because he has actually proven himself very good at recycling. He has recycled the deficit, the bad economic policies, the bad environmental policies, the bad foreign policy. And that's why he's got to be recycled back to Crawford."

Although not usually praised for its achievements, the current Republican Administration is certainly busy with environmental matters. Just this month it has submitted a proposal to Congress requesting that environmental laws be eased for the military, specifically over hazardous waste and toxic clean up. In addition, the administration authorised the sale of federal land to a multi-national mining company for the sum of US$875, in an area where land is normally sold for US$100,000 per tenth of an acre.

In December 2003, the administration signed the Healthy Forests Initiative, allowing for huge increases in commercial logging to take place in the name of 'fire prevention'. In this instance, President Bush may have been following the thoughts of former Republican President Ronald Reagan, who famously asked: "A tree is a tree. How many more do I have to look at?", before also saying, "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do".

Most famously, perhaps, President George Bush has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, saying: "We would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, and a treaty that I thought made sense for the country."

Mr Bush's environmental credentials were in evidence before he took the Presidency, however. Whilst Governor of Texas, Mr Bush once said: "It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."

By David Hopkins



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