On Tuesday, President Bush announced that he would be designating three remote Pacific island chains as national monuments. This action is being hailed as the largest marine conservation effort in history, as it will limit mining, oil exploration and other commercial activity over nearly 200,000 square miles. These island chains are home to a number of rare species of birds and fish, including the Micronesian megapode, a bird that uses subterranean volcanic heat to incubate its eggs.
Bush’s decision is being praised by high-profile representative from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the Pew Environmental Group, but some environmental groups are still critical of the president’s record as a whole. According to Fox News, organizations like the National Resources Defense Council and Ocean Conservancy remain skeptical in spite of this positive new development. A spokesman for the NRDC told Fox News, “I think he's consistently put the interests of his cronies in the oil business far ahead of a real commitment to clean and renewable energy resources.” Laura Capps of the Ocean Conservancy applauded the president’s latest move but also pointed out that “you really have to balance comparisons with little or no action on global warming and lifting a 27-year ban on new offshore drilling.”
President Bush however defended his environmental record during his announcement of the conservation effort:
Since 2001, air pollution has dropped by 12 percent. The strictest air quality standards in American history are now in place, as are strong regulations on power plant and diesel engine emissions. More than 3.6 million acres of wetlands have been protected, restored, or improved. Millions of acres of vital natural habitat have been conserved on farms. More than 27 million acres of federal forest land have been protected from catastrophic wildfires. The maintenance backlog in our national parks has been reduced. More than 11,000 abandoned industrial brownfields are on their way back to productive use. We've had a new focus on cleaning debris from our oceans. Popular recreational fish like the striped bass and red drum are gaining new protection. And new marine protected areas are helping improve the health of our fisheries off the southeast coast. (Click here to read the full transcript)
Bush concluded his speech by saying, “while there's a lot more work to be done, we have done our part to leave behind a cleaner and healthier and better world for those who follow us on this Earth.”
OPPOSING VIEWS ASKS: What will Bush’s environmental legacy be?
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