REWRITING THE RULES, YEAR-END REPORT 2002
The Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment
Natural Resources Defense Council, January 2003
Although our landmark environmental laws are among the most popular and successful legislative efforts of the last 40 years, for the second year in a row they are under siege by the Bush administration. The timing could hardly be worse.
As scientists continue to bolster the case for prompt action to deal with pressing environmental challenges like global warming and deterioration of our oceans, America's environmental laws face a fundamental threat more sweeping and dangerous than any since the dawn of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Environmental protections have been challenged before, most notably in the James Watt era and in the Newt Gingrich Congress, but never through a campaign as far-reaching and destructive as the threat posed today by the Bush administration and the 108th Congress.
One of the most immediate results of the recent mid-term congressional elections has been an acceleration of the administration's virulent effort to weaken key environmental safeguards. In the short period since the election, federal agencies have announced seismic policy shifts in areas ranging from air and water pollution, to forest and wildlife protection, to stewardship of America's public lands.
This report examines the continuing environmental retreats by the Bush administration over the past year, and especially the escalating assault in the few short months since the 2002 congressional elections. It is not a pretty picture. Over the past year environmental programs have been peppered with more than 100 weakening changes, affecting every program that protects our air, water, forests, wetlands, public health, wildlife and pristine wild areas. The following pages examine these actions. Here are a few of the most troubling examples...
In a strange and telling development, the administration in August chose Allen Fitzsimmons to head the Interior Department's wildfire prevention program. Fitzsimmons, who now is responsible for implementing the administration's Healthy Forests Initiative, doubts the existence of ecosystems and believes the extinction of threatened and endangered species might not be a bad idea.
Fitzsimmons is a free-market policy analyst who formerly consulted for libertarian and conservative think tanks. In his 1999 book, The Illusion of Ecosystem Management, Fitzsimmons wrote that, because ecosystems exist only in the human imagination and cannot be delineated, federal policies should not be used to try to manage or restore them (see http://www.prospect.org/webfeatures/2002/epa-letter-02-28.html). In another paper, he took the position that the nation is not experiencing a biodiversity crisis. In fact, the loss of all of the species currently listed by the government as threatened or endangered, he argued, would be balanced out by an increase in nonindigenous species-many of which are taking over native landscapes with devastating results.