Friday, December 3, 2004

Bush's other 'war' attacks increase

If "stay the course" is President Bush's cry for the war in Iraq, "stay the course" is just as stubbornly true for his war on the environment and wildlife.

By dribs and drabs, the White House, through obedient agencies, has announced yet more decrees that relentlessly march the United States backward to the era when laissez faire industry left the landscape wasted and poisoned with dismal wreck-and-ruin consequences.

Not surprisingly, this week's decisions are dear to the heart of private commercial interests, too—to hydroelectric dam operators and to real estate developers along thousands of miles of Western rivers.

One decision cancels the Clinton era option of removing dams on the lower Snake River to protect migrating salmon and steelhead from extinction. This is certain to threaten a major food supply of wildlife, the fishing rights of Native Americans, as well as the inland recreational economies of towns like Stanley and Riggins that depend on salmon and steelhead fishing seasons.

Moreover, the second decision is designed to shrink by some 80 percent the mileage of waterways designated as "critical habitat" for the protection of wildlife and pristine, flowing waters.

Willing members of the Republican Congress sunk their own shiv into Nature, too: tucked in their last-minute $388 billion spending bill was authorization to remove wilderness protection from Georgia's bird-rich Cumberland Island; permission for once-outlawed outfitter lodges to remain in Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, and approval of commercial aquaculture in Alaskan wilderness refuges.

Each decision pandered to interests whose attention span extends only to the next profit and loss statement and whose sense of social responsibility seems stunted. If the planet gradually rots, it's the next generation's tough luck, seems to be the prevailing philosophy of those who ask and those who receive these abominable political blessings.

The ultimate target is a backdoor way of gutting the Endangered Species Act.

For a glimpse of the ugly outcome of such recklessness, this president and beneficiaries of his anti-Nature policies need only be reminded of the travesty visited on Florida's majestic Everglades in brother Jeb's domain.

Real estate interests with an eye to enlarging the narrow strip of developable land along the Gold Coast strong-armed Washington politicians in the late 1940s into authorizing drainage of the 'Glades to create more land for homes.

Some 1,700 miles of canals and levees not only wiped out wildlife habitat, but also sucked salt water from the Atlantic into the precious fresh water aquifer.

Now, $7.8 billion is being spent in hopes of returning the "River of Grass" to its natural state before ancestors of today's environment-be-damned politicians began their heedless destruction.

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