George Bush is playing rhetorical games with the nation's wetlands policy. During his 1988 campaign, Bush -- who wants to be the "environmental president" -- pledged "no net loss" of wetlands, the coastal marshes, swamps and prairie potholes that flood seasonally. But sticking to that commitment would have put about 100 million acres nationwide off limits to bulldozers and cranes. Developers and oil and lumber companies complained.
So the President's Council on Competitiveness, chaired by Vice President Dan Quayle, simply recommended changing the definition of wetlands. Voila. Millions of acres could be opened for development but, technically, not one acre of "wetland" would be lost.
The redefinition, Bush insists, effectively balances the protection of "wetlands" with "the need for sustained economic growth and development." But that's a fraud. As a result of the new definition, as much as half the previously protected acreage in the United States could fall prey to development or drilling -- from chunks of the Alaskan tundra to hundreds of thousands of acres of the Florida Everglades.