Bush: Consider Landowners on Environment
By JOHN HEILPRIN
That could influence federal decisions about the use of public lands, the level of protection for waterways and fighting pollution.
The executive order, bypassing congressional action, was issued by the White House without fanfare while the president campaigned in New Mexico. It is in keeping with Bush's goal of having the government defer as much as possible to local interests. One result could be that national environmental policy is shaped more by economic pressures from local projects.
Environmentalists said the order would encourage less protection for natural resources.
The order calls for more "cooperative conservation" by the departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The term was defined as any collaboration related "to use, enhancement and enjoyment of natural resources, protection of the environment, or both."
The agencies were told that "to the extent permitted by law" and by available dollars, they must collaborate more with states, local and tribal governments, private for-profit and nonprofit groups, nongovernment associations and individuals.
It also requires that government "takes appropriate account of and respects the interests of persons with ownership or other legally recognized interests in land and other natural resources."
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the order was "part of the 'shrink-the-federal-safety-net' efforts by the Bush administration.
"It's another signal to federal agencies that they're supposed to ignore enforcing the law and defer to local governments and landowners," Pope said.
Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, praised Bush's order. Inhofe, mayor of Tulsa, Okla., from 1978 to 1984, said he believed Bush's approach was "something that has been needed for a long time."
While in New Mexico on Thursday, Bush did not refer to the executive order. He did cite a new forestry law intended to reduce the threat of fires in national forests. Environmentalists say it lessens protections for old-growth trees and remote, roadless areas.
Executive Order Facilitation of Cooperative Conservation
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. The purpose of this order is to ensure that the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency implement laws relating to the environment and natural resources in a manner that promotes cooperative conservation, with an emphasis on appropriate inclusion of local participation in Federal decisionmaking, in accordance with their respective agency missions, policies, and regulations.
Sec. 2. Definition. As used in this order, the term "cooperative conservation" means actions that relate to use, enhancement, and enjoyment of natural resources, protection of the environment, or both, and that involve collaborative activity among Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, private for-profit and nonprofit institutions, other nongovernmental entities and individuals.
Sec. 3. Federal Activities. To carry out the purpose of this order, the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Defense and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations and in coordination with each other as appropriate:
(a) carry out the programs, projects, and activities of the agency that they respectively head that implement laws relating to the environment and natural resources in a manner that:
(i) facilitates cooperative conservation;
(ii) takes appropriate account of and respects the interests of persons with ownership or other legally recognized interests in land and other natural resources;
(iii) properly accommodates local participation in Federal decisionmaking; and
(iv) provides that the programs, projects, and activities are consistent with protecting public health and safety;
(b) report annually to the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality on actions taken to implement this order; and
(c) provide funding to the Office of Environmental Quality Management Fund (42 U.S.C. 4375) for the Conference for which section 4 of this order provides.
Sec. 4. White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation. The Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations:
(a) convene not later than 1 year after the date of this order, and thereafter at such times as the Chairman deems appropriate, a White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation (Conference) to facilitate the exchange of information and advice relating to (i) cooperative conservation and (ii) means for achievement of the purpose of this order; and
(b) ensure that the Conference obtains information in a manner that seeks from Conference participants their individual advice and does not involve collective judgment or consensus advice or deliberation.
Sec. 5. General Provision. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.
GEORGE W. BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE,
August 26, 2004.
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