White House Political Maneuvering Could Hurt Northwest Salmon

President Bush lost in Oregon and Washington in the 2000 election, but his team is working to ensure that he fares better in the Pacific Northwest in 2004 — and that may mean trouble for salmon. Bush’s top strategy honcho, Karl Rove, has been making quiet trips to the region and, some say, pressuring federal agencies to loosen protections for salmon and other endangered species because agricultural interests in the Northwest don’t want protective measures to interfere with irrigation. Rove’s intent seems to be to shore up support from Bush’s base: farmers, ranchers, and the timber industry. The Interior Department’s inspector general is launching an investigation into whether the White House interfered in the development of water policy in the Northwest. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a presidential contender, also sees something fishy going on here; he charged the Bush administration with acting “as if federal agencies like the Interior Department are a division of the Republican National Committee and at their disposal to give out political favors.”

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