Until recently, the environment has always been a bipartisan issue here. Many Washington Republicans such as Dan Evans and Ralph Munro are known as great environmentalists. Unfortunately, GOP President Theodore Roosevelt must be spinning in his grave due to the Bush administration's assault on Washington state's environment.
Since taking office President Bush has conducted a shock and awe campaign on the Pacific Northwest environment. His administration has destroyed environmental protections that enjoy great public support and crushed carefully laid plans to preserve our natural surroundings.
In light of the Bush-Cheney campaign's anointment of Bush as a "champion of the environment" ("Bush Respects and Preserves Park Land," Sept. 28), it is fitting we consider this brief reminder of the environmental attacks:
Unfortunately, calling the waste by any other name does not change the fact that leaking nuclear waste has serious consequences such as contaminating the Columbia River and undermining Washington's right to protect public health.
- Forgetting our national parks. Quite contrary to the laughable claims made by Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, the administration is not taking care of our national parks. Our National Park Service has a $600 million operating deficit and a growing maintenance backlog of up to $6 billion. This funding lack has caused a loss in needed park employees; Olympic National Park is down to one permanent park ranger for the entire park.
- Chopping down pristine national forests. Racicot called Bush "a protector of national forests" in the column but this title could never pass the straight-face test if said out loud. Despite election year promises, Bush supports eliminating the popular Roadless Rule, which protects nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forest lands from logging, mining and drilling while keeping them open for fire suppression and recreational use. Bush supports logging and road building, and even more outrageously, his administration is making taxpayers subsidize private logging companies by paying for new roads through our forests.
- Bush has also weakened the Northwest Forest Plan. His administration dropped a rule that had required forest managers to look for rare plants and animals before approving timber sales for logging and loosened the limitation on the amount of runoff that logging operations are allowed to put into salmon-bearing streams. These changes pander to special interests at the expense of protecting our local areas.
- Threatening wild salmon. Bush's proposed salmon hatchery policy would include hatchery-raised salmon in wild salmon counts, thus giving an inaccurate estimate of the health of our wild salmon stocks and reducing the salmon's eligibility for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Wild salmon are biologically different from hatchery fish. If we are to preserve wild salmon stocks, it is important to use sound science, not artificial numbers.
- Refusing to clean up Hanford nuclear waste. The administration has attempted to foist more high-level nuclear waste onto our state and to avoid its cleanup responsibilities for the waste it already put here. The administration tried to change the name of the nuclear waste to escape the law that requires the waste to be treated properly.
There is no greater contrast between the aspirants to the White House this year than there is on the environment. John Kerry is resolute and straightforward on the environment, and has sincerely worked to protect it throughout his entire career. He has one of the highest, if not the highest, career voting records on the environment in the Senate. We could not do better for our local environment.
Many people hope Bush will have an epiphany and change his ways but his record on the environment is the worst of any president in American history, and we cannot take that terrible gamble.
Democrat Jay Inslee represents the First Congressional District and serves on the Committee on Resources. He is the ranking member of the subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.
Bush No Friend of the Environment
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 5, 2004
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