This new administration

BigDog

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During the last election campaign, I made a prediction. I said that Bush was going to win and that it was going to be good for gun owners but bad for the environment. Unfortunately, I was correct. This is the latest pending environmental blow from this new administration. I am sorry that it is so long but I think it is worth noting.

WASHINGTON -- The federal agency in charge of protecting wetlands is proposing rules that would make it easier for developers to eliminate wetlands.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the development and protection of wetlands, recommended changes Wednesday to wetland- development permits. The corps said the steps are meant to provide more flexibility. The corps will solicit public comment about the rules, which would:
* Give developers, under certain conditions, the ability to destroy up to 300 feet of a stream without federal supervision or extensive review. The current permit allows no such exceptions.
* Free developers from a requirement that they restore or create 1 acre of wetland for every acre they destroy. Instead, they would be able to take other steps, such as planting trees.
The Bush administration also said in recently filed court papers that it is holding settlement talks with industry groups that have sued to overturn another set of wetland-preservation rules. Both sets of rules were written during the Clinton administration.
Scientists say wetlands are valuable ecosystems that shelter wildlife and absorb floodwaters. The nation's stock of wetlands has been shrinking for decades. Environmentalists say the corps' proposals are a bad idea, in part because they grant more authority to the staff in dozens of district offices. Those staffers, for example, will be the ones who decide which stream-destroying projects deserve strict government scrutiny and which need next to none.
"Leaving it to the whim of local engineers effectively means protection would be minimal," said Todd Hutchins of Earthjustice, an environmental law firm.
Developers said the effects of the proposals would be marginal. "We're disappointed the corps had the opportunity to make some meaningful reforms, and they didn't," said Susan Asmus of the National Association of Home Builders.
Both sides agree that the stakes are high in the lawsuit about the "Tulloch Rule," which bans excavation of wetlands. Industry groups have sued repeatedly since the mid-1990s over the rule. The Clinton administration defended the rule in court. In April, Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman said she would retain it. But last month, lawyers for the Justice Department filed papers in federal court in Washington asking for time "so that the parties can focus on settlement discussions."
 


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