updated 4/24/2004 2:11:43 PM ET 2004-04-24T18:11:43

President Bush pledged Saturday an “enduring national commitment” to expanding America’s wetlands and said his administration’s environmental efforts honor a strong legacy of conservation and stewardship.

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Wetlands are one of America’s most important natural resources and expanding them is an important goal, Bush said in his weekly radio address, capping several days of touting his environmental record in appearances outside Washington.

A plan announced this week aims to restore, improve and protect at least 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years.

“This new wetlands policy reflects an enduring national commitment, carried forward by both parties, to protecting the environment,” Bush said.

“In the past three decades, America has made great strides in honoring the ideal of conservation, and living by high standards of stewardship. My administration’s environmental efforts uphold that legacy.”

Kerry: ‘Bush isn't telling the truth’
John Kerry, the Democrats’ presumptive candidate to face Bush in November’s election, accused the president of not coming clean about his environmental record and promised that, if elected, he will change Bush’s policies.

“George Bush isn’t telling the truth when he says ‘America’s air, land, and water have all gotten cleaner’ on his watch. That is false,” Kerry said.

He said Bush rolled back laws to reduce asthma-causing smog and mercury levels that endanger pregnant women and “pursued policies that force local taxpayers to foot the bill when corporate polluters make a mess.”

Kerry said his policies as president would “make sure that we give our children and future generations clean air, clean water and communities they can live in.”

Delivering the Democrats’ radio address, Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado also criticized the Bush administration’s environmental policies.

“Today we are headed in the wrong direction,” he contended. “Under President Bush, we have basically sold out our environment for the profit of the special interests.”

Udall said the administration is proposing to undermine drinking water by slashing money for the states’ Clean Water programs by 37 percent.

With toxic waste-site cleanup, the sellout story repeats itself, he said, arguing that the administration has ditched the “polluter pays” approach and is shifting the burden to taxpayers.

John Kerry, the Democrats’ presumptive candidate to face Bush in November’s election, accused the president of not coming clean about his environmental record and promised that, if elected, he will change Bush’s policies.

“George Bush isn’t telling the truth when he says ‘America’s air, land, and water have all gotten cleaner’ on his watch. That is false,” Kerry said.

He said Bush rolled back laws to reduce asthma-causing smog and mercury levels that endanger pregnant women and “pursued policies that force local taxpayers to foot the bill when corporate polluters make a mess.”

Kerry said his policies as president would “make sure that we give our children and future generations clean air, clean water and communities they can live in.”

Delivering the Democrats’ radio address, Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado also criticized the Bush administration’s environmental policies.

“Today we are headed in the wrong direction,” he contended. “Under President Bush, we have basically sold out our environment for the profit of the special interests.”

Udall said the administration is proposing to undermine drinking water by slashing money for the states’ Clean Water programs by 37 percent.

With toxic waste-site cleanup, the sellout story repeats itself, he said, arguing that the administration has ditched the “polluter pays” approach and is shifting the burden to taxpayers.

Bush lauds progress of Clean Air Act
On cleaner air, Bush said he is building on the progress of the Clean Air Act of 1970 under which major air pollutants have been reduced by nearly half. His administration is implementing “smarter ways to raise standards and improve air quality,” he said.

The clean air interstate rule, based on the Clear Skies legislation sent to Congress last year, will reduce the major causes of ozone and fine particles by 70 percent, he said. The rule employs a market-based approach to reduce air pollution that crosses state borders.

A new rule is also being completed to remove sulfur from diesel fuels; and his administration is regulating mercury emissions from power plants for the first time ever, he said. Under the administration’s new proposal, mercury emissions will be cut by about 70 percent, the president said.

“All these rules are based on sound science and good economics,” he said, “and they will help every American breathe cleaner air.”

On land matters, Bush noted that he signed legislation two years ago to clean up more of the abandoned and polluted industrial sites, known as brownfields. Between 2001 and 2003, he said, his administration restored over 1,000 brownfields to usable condition, more than were restored in the previous seven years.

The efforts have opened usable land for small businesses and residents in hundreds of communities, and created more than 25,000 jobs in cleanup and redevelopment, he said.

The president said another critical environmental priority is healthy forests. He said the Healthy Forest Restoration Act he signed in December reduces the risk of fire, saves lives and property and improves the health of forests. The law, he said, opens millions of acres of forest land to vital thinning projects.

Critics say the new forest law favors the timber industry, leaving old-growth trees and remote, roadless areas of forests at risk of logging, in the name of clearing brush to prevent wildfires.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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