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JIM LEHRER: Next, matching speeches by President Bush and Senator Kerry. Both celebrated Earth Day today. The president was at the Little River Salt Marsh in Wells, Maine, where he talked about preserving the nation’s wetlands.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The importance about Earth Day is it reminds us that we can’t take the natural wonders for granted. That’s what Earth Day says to me and I hope it says to you, as well — that we have responsibilities to the natural world to conserve that which we have and to make it even better.
We’ve made tremendous progress during the last four years. My administration has put in place some of the most important anti-pollution policies in a decade — policies that have reduced harmful emission, reclaimed brown fields, cut phosphorous releases into our rivers and streams. Since 2001, the condition of America’s land, air and water has improved. (Applause)
Today I want to talk about wetlands — up to half of all North American bird species nest or feed in wetlands. About half of all threatened and endangered species use wetlands. There are some endangered species using the wetlands right here on this piece of property. Our wetlands help to trap pollution, but I bet a lot of people don’t understand that the wetlands help to clean the water, as well. The old policy of wetlands was to limit the loss of wetlands.
Today I’m going to announce a new policy, a new goal for our country: Instead of just limiting our losses, we will expand the wetlands of America. To do so we will work to restore and to improve and to protect at least 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years.
First we’ll restore at least 1 million acres of wetlands that do not exist today through expanded incentive and partnership measures such as the wetlands reserve program and through the new grants under the Interior Department’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
Second, we will improve the quality of another million acres of existing wetlands through expanded public-private efforts such as the Interior Department’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. We’ll protect an additional 1 million acres of wetlands currently at risk by increasing grants for land protection programs and by making it easier for farmers and other landowners to participate in these programs.
The budget I’ve sent to Congress proposes to spend $349 million on two key wetlands programs, which is an increase of more than 50 percent since I first took office. These monies will help and they will provide proper incentive for good conservation measures.
I’ve come here because this is a great example of people seizing the initiative and a great example of where the government can help but not stand in the way of common sense policies that will make a significant difference to the wetlands and the native species, and it sends a clear signal to everybody else in our country that if you want to be a responsible citizen, do something about the quality of the life in the community in which you live.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Kerry spoke at a rally at the University of Houston.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Today we have a president who has gone to Maine, and he went to Maine to talk about what he’s doing for wetlands.
Once again, once again, my friends, this administration is playing the smoke and mirrors game. Once again the say one thing do another administration is pretending to the American people. Once again they are misleading Americans because for the last three-and-a-half years, this administration, this president had a proposal that would have lost us 20 million acres of wetlands. And it wasn’t until the objections rose, the hue and cry came back, and finally they said, well, we’ll revisit that rule.
Now, they say they’ll revisit it over the next five years, but you know as well as I do once they get reelected they’ll walk away from that promise the same way they’ve walked away from all the others. And why is it, why is it that we have a president who waits until the fourth year, waits until election time, waits until the criticisms are out there before he even announces the possibility of what he could have been fighting for, for the last three-and-a-half to four years?
I believe that never has the argument been as compelling as it is today. This is the most important election of our lifetimes, and we need to take back our democracy. (Applause) But it’s not just the water. It’s not just the air: Superfund sites. They’re cleaning them at half the rate that we were cleaning them under Bill Clinton. Why? Did any American write and say, “slow down the rate at which we take the toxics out of our water?” Did any American write and say, “we like living next to these Superfund sites where our kids may get cancer”? You think if we were being responsible, we would speed up the rate at which we’re doing it.
When I’m president, we’re going to reauthorize Superfund, and we’re going to hold polluters accountable for the pollution that they make. We are going to set a goal that by the year 2020, 20 percent of America’s electricity is going to be produced by alternative and renewable sources, and if we do that, we’ll grow the future of this country.
You see these signs? You see these signs? A clean environment, a strong economy. I believe we deserve leadership in our nation that trusts how smart the American people are. That’s prepared to level with people and not give them false choices. The false choice that we’ve been working on in America these last years is that somehow protecting the environment comes at the expense of jobs and the economy. I don’t believe that. I believe that protecting the environment done properly is jobs and it is a strong economy and it is the future. It’s how we protect ourselves.
JIM LEHRER: We’ll have similar matching speeches like these throughout the campaign.