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Nature on the Rocks

In the Everglades, decades of damage to the ecosystem have contributed to a steady slide in tourism—from 1.8 million annual visitors 30 years ago to about 1 million today. The Bush administration is supporting plans to reduce development around the park and improve water flow. Of course, few see it as coincidental that one of the president's most aggressively pro-environmental programs is taking place in the state where his brother, Jeb Bush, is governor.

Besides, many environmental advocates fret that the President's Everglades policy is the exception that proves the rule. They say Bush reflexively backs such "old economy" industries as oil and timber, and is indifferent to the boon of scenic beauty to travel-based industries. "These parks and forests are the essence of what makes up America," says Myrna Johnson. "Keeping them beautiful is vital for the health of our businesses." Not to mention for the pleasure of travelers.

WILDERNESS AT RISK: 5 U.S. HOT SPOTS
Acadia National Park The secluded inlets and deep-green forests of this popular Maine park draw about 2.5 million visits annually. But thanks to New England power plants, ozone levels here often exceed those in Boston and Philadelphia. Some worry that President Bush's Clear Skies proposal will do little to clean up the air here and in other parks.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge The 19.5-million-acre site on Alaska's northern coast swarms with caribou, birds, and other wildlife and has long been an environmental battleground. Bush's proposed 2004 budget calls for oil-field leasing there by 2005. But Democratic opposition in the Senate, aided by a small group of Republican dissenters, may yet forestall drilling.

Arches National Park The Bureau of Land Management has allowed gas exploration in some 35 square miles of land near this Utah destination popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and other travelers. In a suit filed last fall, environmental groups charged that the BLM has not considered the significant environmental damage drilling would inflict upon the area and its likely impact on endangered or threatened species.

Giant Sequoia National Monument Many environmentalists are flabbergasted that as many as 3,000 logging trucks' worth of trees—enough to build more than 600 homes—may be removed each year from this monument, created in 2000 by President Bill Clinton. The proposal is part of the Healthy Forests Initiative, which encourages mechanical tree-thinning and controlled burns to reduce wildfire risk. Monument advocates fear that many environmental safeguards will be ignored, and commercial logging allowed in the guise of public safety.

Northern Rockies In January 2001, President Clinton enacted Forest Service rules aimed at protecting thousands of square miles in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming from road development. A Bush administration effort to block the implementation of these rules was overturned by a federal court. But environmentalists say Bush's forest officials aren't committed to preventing roads from being built—and possibly breaking up elk and wolf habitats and damaging fragile aspen groves.

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