The Bush Administration has been under a lot of pressure from environmentalists, hunting groups, and state agencies to do something about wetlands protection. On Earth Day, President Bush responded by announcing a new initiative that he says will take wetlands protection to a higher level. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush takes a closer look at the President’s latest proposal:
The Bush Administration has been under a lot of pressure from
environmentalists, hunting groups, and state agencies to do something about
wetlands protection. On Earth Day, President Bush responded by announcing a
new initiative that he says will take wetlands protection to a higher level.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush takes a closer look at the
President’s latest proposal:
In the last thirty years, urban sprawl and farming have destroyed millions of
acres of wetlands. Because of that, the past two Presidents called for a
policy of “no net loss of wetlands.” The current Bush administration says it also
supports that goal. And says it wants to go a step further.
On Earth Day, the President unveiled his latest plan to protect and restore
“The old policy of wetlands was to limit the loss of wetlands. Today, I’m going to
announce a new policy and a new goal for our country: instead of just
limiting our losses, we will expand the wetlands of America.”
(Applause – fade under)
The Bush administration says its policy will restore, improve, and protect a
total of three million acres of wetlands in the next five years. In his speech, the
President gave a general outline of the plan, saying he’s going to increase support for a
number of programs already in place.
Ben Grumbles is an Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection
Agency. He heads up the water and wetlands programs for the EPA. He says
the President has called on many agencies to implement the new plan:
“The heart of the President’s new goal and commitment is to use
collaborative conservation-based programs to gain three million acres of
wetlands and to do so through USDA, Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation programs and
partnerships with the private sector.”
While environmentalists approve parts of President Bush’s new plan, many of
them say it’s the wrong first step to take. Julie Sibbing is a wetlands
policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation.
“Although it’s a great thing that they’re going to get a million acres of
wetlands restored, and a million acres enhanced, and a million acres
protected, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to what’s currently at
risk due to their policies on protecting wetlands under the Clean Water
And that’s the main criticism – environmentalists and some hunters say the
Administration is not doing its job in enforcing current federal laws. Laws that protect
rivers, lakes, and wetlands – and worse – they say the administration has
actively weakened laws that protect millions of acres of smaller, isolated
wetlands. These critics see this latest announcement by the Bush Administration
as an attempt to shore up its dismal record on the environment in general…
and on wetlands in particular.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Julie Sibbing says the Administration
would make better use of taxpayers’ money by reviewing some of its policies
and protecting wetlands that already exist:
“It’s just too hard to build new wetlands for us to ignore protecting what’s
there right now. We love the programs that restore former wetlands, but the
most important thing is to try to protect those wetlands that we still
Officials in the Bush Administration say they are serious about enforcing
the law. And they say they are protecting wetlands. They say they’re just
taking a different approach.
In his speech, President Bush said good conservation will
happen when people don’t just rely on the government to be the solution to
the problem, saying more people should look to private sector land trusts
and voluntary efforts by landowners to get the job done.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.