In a decision environmentalists say is symbolic of the Bush administration’s lack of commitment to conservation issues, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced the closure of the federal Office of Everglades Restoration yesterday. The office was created in the last month of the Clinton administration to implement the nation’s most ambitious ecosystem restoration project ever — the 30-year, $7.8 billion recovery plan for the Florida Everglades. Norton said the office was closed to reduce bureaucratic overhead, but critics say Bush was doing a favor for his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who has fought to limit the Interior Department’s role in the restoration project. “We think this is a huge step backward,” said Save Our Everglades spokesperson Joe Garcia.

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