Environmentalists Challenge Bush's Earth Day Announcement


April 23, 2004

For Earth Day, President George W. Bush yesterday announced a new national wetlands policy to replace the "no net loss" goal adopted by his father, President George H.W. Bush, in 1988. President Bush announced a national goal to "go beyond 'no net loss'" of wetlands, saying his administration aims to achieve an overall increase in wetlands each year.

"For Earth Day, the President is trying to whitewash -- or 'greenwash' -- his anti-wetlands record because he knows the public wants clean water," Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice, told BushGreenwatch. "But trotting out a list of voluntary programs that already exist -- and calling them a new initiative while simultaneously dismantling the nation's most important wetlands protection law -- is not going to wash."

But environmental groups say the policies actually being implemented by the Bush Administration will result in more wetland destruction and water pollution, not less.

"The administration's current policies, including a directive removing protection from an estimated 20 million acres of wetlands under the Clean Water Act, virtually guarantee that our country will continue to lose both wetland function and acreage," said Julie Sibbing, wetlands policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation.

According to a new report by NWF, America's Wetlands, Nowhere Near No-Net-Loss, the country's wetlands are in more trouble today than they have been in decades, because of policies set by the Bush Administration that increasingly expose these waters to pollution, dredging, and filling.[1]

Today there are approximately 110 million acres of wetlands in the continental U.S., according to the EPA. This is about half of the nation's original wetlands. Wetlands filter pollution from drinking water supplies, provide vital habitat for fish and wildlife, absorb floodwaters, and help maintain overall water quality.

In January, 2003, the Bush Administration issued a new policy directing EPA and Army Corps field staff to limit the kinds of wetlands and other waterways they protect under the Clean Water Act, thereby threatening about 20 percent of the lower 48 states' remaining wetlands with pollution or outright destruction.[2]

Other anti-wetlands policy initiated by the Bush Administration includes repealing the minimal requirement that every acre of wetlands filled or destroyed be replaced with at least one acre of new wetlands; and weakening the environmental standards for general permits to fill wetlands and streams.

"Given what we know about wetlands and their importance to both human and wildlife communities, we should expect much more from our government in terms of a plan to really achieve no-net-loss and to regain some of what has been lost in order to ensure a healthy future for generations to come," added Sibbing.


[1] America's Wetlands, Nowhere Near No-Net-Loss, NWF.

[2] EPA/Army Corps Memo, Jan. 16, 2003.


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