We expected the worst for the environment from a Bush presidency. And he has never worked harder to meet our expectations than in these last few months. The list of misdeeds is long, and probably sadly familiar. Some of W's parting shots include:
- Gutting key protection in the Endangered Species Act.
- Opening millions of acres of pristine lands in Utah to oil drillers and off-roaders - and paving the way for a last minute lease sale that will auction off drilling sites next to Arches National Park.
- Opening millions of acres in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to oil shale development, which will suck streams dry and require ten new power plants to bake oil from rocks.
- Approving plans to carve powerline and pipeline corridors through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and other sensitive lands.
All of these are bad ideas with hugely damaging impacts to the environment. And there are more like them. But all were part of long-planned efforts, and so while disillusioning, they were not much of a surprise.
But today's news caught me off-guard - Bush pardoned a man who used pesticides illegally to kill bald eagles. Nothing seems more emblematic of this president's contempt for the natural world than this - giving a free pass to someone who recklesly killed our national symbol, an endangered species.
It's not like the President was fixing some gross miscarriage of justice. The guy pleaded guilty to the offense. And it's not like the offense was an accident. If you leave poisoned meat lying around unsupervised as a way to rid yourself of a pest, chances are some other animal may find it and be poisoned.
Bush's decision to reach into the pile of more than 2000 pardon requests and pick out this man to pardon - one of only 14 pardons issued today - speaks volumes about his priorities.
Jan. 20, 2009 will be a new day. In the meantime, it's hard to see how President Bush can go any lower.