Bush Administration Could Reverse Environmental Initiatives

A recent letter from the incoming chair of\r\nthe House Resource Committee to President-elect Bush proposes dismantling a wide variety of current conservation efforts.

When President-elect Bush announced his pick N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman as his choice for EPA administrator, the reaction was mostly favorable.

Bush''s allegedly lousy environmental record in Texas was a campaign issue, and left some groups such as the Sierra Club to conclude that Whitman at EPA is as good as it gets in a Bush Administration.

But what will be the fate of many of the Clinton Administration''s environmental initiatives? A recent letter from the incoming chair of the House Resource Committee may be an indication.

According to the Washington Post, in a private letter to President-elect Bush, Rep. James V. Hansen, D-Utah, proposed dismantling a wide variety of Clinton Administration conservation efforts.

The 11-term Republican, who has publicly attacked Clinton''s environmental agenda over the past eight years, suggested everything from relaxing a ban on snowmobile use in some national parks to removing some of the national monument designations the president had given public lands in recent years.

"After many years of being frustrated by the Clinton Administration''s unreasoned and frequently absurd interpretation of law and congressional intent, I am elated at finally having the opportunity to work with your administration has taken in their attempt to manage our natural resources," Hansen wrote to Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney on Dec. 27, according to the Post.

The letter also talks about one of the outgoing administration''s most controversial policies: declaring large wilderness areas national monuments.

Hansen noted that since the monument declarations made this year are still in the planning stages, Congress will have "an opportunity to review these designations in detail and make decisions accordingly."

According to the Post, the letter sparked an immediate outcry from environmentalists such as Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who served as the ranking Democrat on the Resource Committee during the 106th Congress.

"He wants to repeal the last eight years and much of the environmental progress we have had over the past 25 years," said Miller.

Miller said that, while the letter should "strike fear into the hearts" of environmentalists, he is confident a bipartisan group of lawmakers will stop the new Bush Administration from enacting Hansen''s proposals.

Interior Department Nomination Targeted

Another strike against Bush in terms of the environment came yesterday after he nominated Gale A. Norton as head of the Interior Department.

Environmental leaders met yesterday to plot strategy against Norton''s nomination, although lawmakers of both parties have said there is little chance that opponents could amass the votes needed to block any of Bush''s choices.

Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said his group is planning a vigorous campaign, "the largest effort we''ll have ever made to block a federal appointee."

The environmental groups oppose Norton because, they said, she will open up more federal lands for mining, oil and gas drilling and timber harvesting.

They also said that positions she has advocated to use the free market and other non-regulatory incentives to protect the environment will fail to conserve public lands and restore endangered species.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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