Bush Wetlands Initiative Less Ambitious Than It Appears

Attempting to neutralize John Kerry’s criticisms of his environmental record, President Bush traveled on Earth Day to Maine, a crucial swing state, and announced a wetlands initiative that aims to restore or protect some 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years. Enviros, though, knocked the plan as nothing more than a bundle of already-existing voluntary programs. Ed Hopkins of the Sierra Club said, “this initiative pales in comparison with the damage the Bush administration is doing to wetlands” by not protecting them more vigilantly under the Clean Water Act. Critics pointed out that in January 2003, the administration issued a directive to the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to limit the kinds of wetlands and waterways protected under the act, which could result in some 20 million fewer protected acres. The administration has also weakened the environmental standards for permits to fill wetlands, and repealed the requirement that every acre of wetlands filled or destroyed be replaced.