Bush Shows Off Ranch to Conservation Groups

President Bush today will give a tour of his Texas ranch to what the White House calls “wildlife conservation organizations,” including Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and, uh, the National Rifle Association. Bush’s policies of promoting oil and gas exploration and other development in the West have sapped some of his political support among traditionally Republican hunters and anglers; this tour will be an opportunity for him to talk up his clean-air and healthy-forest initiatives, said a White House spokesperson. Bush spends several weeks a year at his ranch — between his inauguration and September 2001, he spent part or all of 54 days there — often hacking away at the cedar brush he says saps water from his hardwoods. A spokesperson for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry — who himself hunts and would like to win over the hunter demographic — used the ranch tour as an opportunity to attack Bush’s record on conservation, saying that the president is “systematically dismantling, neutralizing, or defunding virtually every meaningful law, regulation, and program that protects or restores fish and wildlife.”