In a defeat for developers, the Bush administration said yesterday it wouldn’t try to weaken a rule approved by former President Clinton to expand protections to tens of thousands of acres of wetlands. The rule requires developers to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act for many basic activities such as digging artificial lakes, constructing drainage ditches, and redirecting streams with human-made channels. After the U.S. EPA announced the decision yesterday, the White House released a statement affirming the move, an unusual step that may have been meant to shore up President Bush’s environmental credentials. The National Association of Home Builders has already challenged the rule, and enviros said the real test of the administration’s resolve will be whether it mounts a strong defense of the rule in court.