WASHINGTON - The Sierra Club released a new book timed to coincide with Earth Day, slamming President George W. Bush for pursuing "the worst environmental policy" in almost a century and calling it a "sad day" for the United States.
"Bush has done his best, in only three years, to break our national compact on environmental progress and turn the clock back -- not years or decades, but a full century," said Sierra Club President Carl Pope, one of the authors of "Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress."
He claims Bush, who took office in 2001 and is seeking a second mandate in the November 2 election, is the first president since Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to close out his term with the country worse off ecologically than it was when he arrived in office.
"George W. Bush, in three and a half years, has stripped from protected status 135 million acres (55 million hectares), the size of Texas and Oklahoma," said Pope, who lists in his book top administration officials with strong links to the private sector, including the oil industry.
"The Bush administration is full of officials who believe -- from the bottom of their hearts, not just their wallets -- that weaker laws on clean air, less funding to clean up toxic waste dumps, and national parks and forests run for private profit are actually good for the country," he charged.
For his part, the US president on Thursday defended his record on the environment, after also coming under attack from his rival in the 2004 race for the White House, Democratic Senator John Kerry.
In a visit to a wetlands area in Wells, Maine, Bush announced a program that would not only preserve US wetlands areas but also extend them.
The White House has said that in its budget for 2005, yet to be approved by Congress, some 349 million dollars would be spent on financing the wetlands initiative.
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse.