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What now?

The reelection of George W. Bush does not bode well for the health of Americans, for our air and our water, or for our last stretches of unspoiled land. This is not personal: His record on the environment is beyond dismal. Many hunters and anglers -- typically Bush supporters -- came to that same conclusion. Even the organization Republicans for Environmental Protection refused to endorse its party's leader. President Bush simply can't be counted on to stand up for wilderness protections, clean water, or any environmental safeguard that might impede the plundering of our natural resources by his friends in the energy industry.

The impact of this election will reach far beyond today's political season. Tomorrow's generation will pay for the damage done during President Bush's tenure. For that very reason, we must remain steadfast and strengthen our grassroots advocacy, our media outreach, and our litigation efforts. Although our greatest challenges lie ahead, we're better prepared than ever to respond effectively.

We have prevailed in the past under administrations with weak environmental policies.

President Bush will not escape our scrutiny. We'll maintain the Bush Record, our log of environmental blunders, missteps, and outright assaults, whether they be broad policy initiatives or the gutting of regulatory protections behind closed doors. This administration will not sneak anything past us. When President Bush unveiled his contentious energy plan in 2001, calling for Congress to vote on the package of bills within 48 hours, we made certain that it was front-page news around the nation. The bill unraveled. We expect new tricks that will be just as stealthy, so we won't be letting our guard down.

But we won't stay on the defensive, either. We'll take our battles to the courtroom, as we did when we forced Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force to make many of its documents public; threw the brakes on hasty and ill-conceived plans to bury high-level radioactive waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear dump site; and stopped the Navy from harming whales and other marine mammals with low-frequency sonar.

In the coming months the courts will rule on landmark battles over New Source Review clean-air regulations and commercial logging in wilderness areas. Despite last month's political setback, we hope courtroom victories on these important issues will put some wind in our sails as we embark on the next four years.

As we do, we'll create partnerships with leaders of both parties at the state and local levels to win sound environmental policies. With Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm, California has made groundbreaking progress in the fight against global warming by setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. States control the oceans within three miles of their shores, and last fall Schwarzenegger issued a truly forward-looking ocean conservation plan for California's coastal waters. Governor George Pataki of New York may also prove to be an ally on conservation. More importantly, this might be one environmental issue on which the Bush administration takes a sincerely proactive stance.

If President Bush does seek to make legitimate progress on ocean protection, or on any other issue, we will be delighted to work with him. But if not, we have prevailed in the past under administrations with weak environmental policies, and we will do it again.

John H. Adams

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Photo: Brennan Cavanaugh

OnEarth. Winter 2005
Copyright 2004 by the Natural Resources Defense Council