As part of his 2004 re-election bid, President Bush has been stumping recently in swing states talking about his new five-year plan to preserve America's wetlands, including the creation of a million acres of additional wetlands. Scientists note, however, that such efforts are fraught with difficulty because creating wetland ecosystems has proven incredibly complex. And several environmental groups have described the effort as a White House public relations ploy intended to gloss over the President's poor environmental record.
“He is touting a plan to save 3 million acres of wetlands,” notes Nancy Stoner, with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, “but last year his administration ordered federal agency field staff to stop protecting as many as 20 million acres of wetlands and an untold number of streams.”
The Bush administration has asserted that wetland protection under the Clean Water Act was interpreted too narrowly by the Clinton administration. In response, they issued new guidance in January for EPA officials, urging them to interpret the Clean Water Act more broadly. Whether or not the Bush plan ever achieves its goal of a net increase in national wetlands may be tough to measure, say ecologists, because few can agree on the definition of existing wetlands.