U.S. Water News Online
NAPLES, Fla. -- President Bush toured an Everglades
wildlife reserve recently to tout his commitment to conservation as
environmentalists criticized him for a "swing state photo op" ahead
of November's election.
Ending a two-day push to fight off attacks on his environmental
record by Democratic challenger John Kerry, Bush visited the Rookery
Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, perched on 110,000 acres of
Everglades forest and wetlands on the Gulf of Mexico.
"My administration is committed to conserving Florida's natural
beauty," Bush told a crowd, standing on the shore of a brackish swamp
patrolled by alligators, turtles and manatees. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush,
the president's brother, looked on.
Florida was the battleground for the bitter recount vote in the
2000 election and could be a crucial state in this year's campaign.
Bush also attended Florida fund-raisers in Naples and Coral Gables
that brought in $4.4 million for Republican candidates. After raising
more than $180 million for his own campaign, Bush has turned his
attention to raising money for the Republican party.
As his motorcade sped along the Gulf Coast, he passed hundreds of
well-wishers as well as some protesters waving signs like "You're
fired" and "Bush abuses our environment."
On his tour, Bush donned work gloves and red pruning shears to
help volunteers hack away at Earleaf Acacia trees, an invasive
species that is choking off native trees and plants.
"To the president the environment is nothing more than a swing
state photo op," said Philip Clapp, president of the National
Environmental Trust, an environmental group.
Kerry's campaign accused Bush of refusing to clean up dozens of
Florida sites contaminated with toxic chemicals and pointed to
mercury-contaminated Florida fish.
Bush said he supported a plan to restore water flows in the
Everglades. The federal government would provide half of the $8
million project with the other half coming from state and local
contributions. The president also supports a government effort to buy
back oil and natural gas drilling leases off the state's coast.
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