Strong Environmental Concern Voiced by Bush

Times Political Writer

From his fondness for boats and water, and the fun of grasping a fishing pole in his hand, arises one of George Bush’s most far-reaching and in some ways curious campaign statements:

“I think for too long we’ve given the playing field away to the Democrats on the environment. I want to make the environment a Republican issue.

“I’d like to be remembered the same way as Teddy Roosevelt . . . the Republican President who first made clear to us that nothing short of defending this country in wartime compares in importance to the great central task of leaving this land a better land for our descendants . . . . I want to leave a legacy of unspoiled land for our children and our children’s children.”


Theme for Northwest

Rarely does a Republican elevate environmental protection to such heights. And Bush began doing it in earnest only in the last three days during a campaign swing through the Pacific Northwest, a place where sensibilities about nature and the outdoors are keen, to say the least.

The vice president and those close to him repeatedly point to his fondness for the outdoors as evidence of his sympathetic point of view on the environment.

“I like the outdoors. I like sports. I like outdoor recreation. I like the outdoor life you enjoy so much out here,” he told an audience in Medford, Ore.

But beneath his statement are just the skimpiest outlines of how Bush as President might try to fashion a historical legacy on the environment, as Theodore Roosevelt did as the father of the National Park System. And Bush’s views are frankly full of positions and beliefs that environmentalists tend to oppose, sometimes bitterly.

Convinced of Sincerity

Even those close to Bush admit they are uncertain where--and how far--he would go, even as they are convinced of his sincerity when he says: “We can do better.”

Derrick Candall, president of the American Recreation Coalition and chairman of Bush’s “working group” of environmental advisers, said: “I believe he will give a much different thrust on people and on priorities for the environment and natural resources.

“He will find a way to defuse some of the political trauma that has slowed real progress on these issues.”

An inventory of Bush’s views finds him staking positions throughout the spectrum of environmental issues.

On one hand, he is for offshore oil drilling.

‘Caribou Like Pipeline’

Bush says that petroleum exploration and production in Alaska have improved wildlife habitat. “Caribou like the pipeline,” he has said. “They lean up against it, have a lot of babies, scratch on it. There’s more damn caribou than you can shake a stick at.”

Bush strongly supports nuclear energy and dismisses concerns about safe storage of wastes.

On the other hand, Bush broke away from the Reagan Administration on the ticklish international subject of pollution-induced acid rain. In a speech Monday to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, he said: “We can no longer afford to simply study the problem, we must begin to take effective action.”

He is an advocate of ways to burn coal cleanly and to use surplus Midwestern grain for low-emission automobile fuels and biodegradable plastics.

He pledges to “speed up the cleanup of toxic waste dumps” and to place the costs “on those who caused the problem in the first place.”

Bush endorses many recommendations of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, including those for a new national emphasis on urban parkland and greenways. But he has not endorsed the commission’s key call for a minimum $1-billion-a-year national investment to bring the plan to life.

For three hours during the weekend, accompanied by his staff, security force and a busload of journalists, Bush went drift-boat fishing down seven miles of Oregon’s Rogue River.

The quarry was salmon and, not incidentally, news photographs of a fully outfitted vice presidential fisherman in his element. He was skunked in quest of the former but appeared to do quite well on the latter.

Legacy for ‘Our Kids’

“You go down that river, you’ll appreciate the natural legacy we have to protect and leave our kids in unsullied form,” he told supporters here.

On Monday, Bush visited a Weyerhaeuser Co. forestry research center and planted a seedling pine in the company garden for benefit of the cameras. He visited a lumber mill also.

Later, he traveled to Fresno to begin 36 hours of campaigning in California before heading east for a vacation--in the outdoors of the Maine coast.