February 2, 2004
President Meets With The Nation's Conservation Leaders
by James L. Cummins
Not long ago I had the opportunity to join other leaders from our Nation's conservation
community to meet with President George W. Bush.
The meeting, which took place in both the Oval Office and the Roosevelt Room,
was the first in at least a decade and one of the few in the history of The White
House where conservation organizations were invited to discuss issues of importance
to conservation, hunting and fishing with the President.
During the hour long meeting, President Bush thanked the conservation community
for their support of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, the conservation provisions
of the Farm Bill and other pieces of conservation legislation that were supported
by the Bush Administration. The conservation groups expressed appreciation to
President Bush for the work of his Administration, most notably Secretary of
the Interior Gale Norton and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, for their
open communication and their support for common sense conservation programs such
as Partners For Fish and Wildlife, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, the
Grasslands Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program.
President Bush stated his commitment to maintaining a policy of "no net
loss" of wetlands, which his father put in place. He expressed concern for
the decline in bobwhite quail populations and the need to improve them. The President
discussed the importance of hunting and fishing in America's society and stated
that it was disappointing that the political correctness of today endangers the
future of outdoor traditions. He also recognized the economic impact hunting,
fishing and bird watching plays throughout America and especially in rural communities.
He relayed his experience in setting up a wildlife-associated tourism program
in Texas, specifically related to birdwatching. This is something that Mississippi
needs and something Governor Haley Barbour has been thinking about since before
he was elected.
President Bush told us of some of his and the First Lady's personal efforts to
improve his land on his ranch near Crawford, Texas. He has been working to eliminate
the invasive cedar trees on the property that are competing with the hardwoods
for moisture. The First Lady has been working to restore native buffalo grass
on the property. The President has also been working to improve the population
of largemouth bass on his lake.
President Bush stated that the spirit of the outdoors is a major part of his
Administration and he believed that his was one of the most outdoors-oriented
This is the third time this year I have met with President Bush. He seems to
be very comfortable around people like sportsmen and conservationists that share
the same values about the land and fish and wildlife resources. I am also continually
amazed of his personal knowledge of and interest in the land, wildlife and conservation.
We are blessed to have a President that is not only a private landowner but one
that is personally interested in fish and wildlife conservation.
James L. Cummins is Executive Director of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Stoneville, Mississippi. Known as "Wildlife Mississippi," the Foundation is a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their web site is www.wildlifemiss.org.