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Assessing Dukakis, Bush and Jackson

May 28, 1988

Bush recently displayed himself as being both knowledgeable and protective of the quality of our environment ("Strong Environmental Concern Voiced by Bush," Part I, May 17). His concern was quite a pleasant surprise, since he represents an Administration that has been anything but sympathetic to the environment. Bush's statement, "I want to leave a legacy of unspoiled land for our children and our children's children," embodies an outlook I have held for many years.

In fact, I often use it as a yardstick to judge potential policy-makers, since the government has a vested interest in maintaining natural resources for future generations, an interest too often ignored.

My initial optimism faded as I read on, "Bush believes petroleum exploration and production in Alaska have improved wildlife habitat" because, he says, "Caribou like the (Trans-Alaska) pipeline. . . . They lean up against it, have lots of babies, scratch on it." Could this be the basis of a carefully thought out political position? Are there no other wildlife besides caribou in Alaska? What about risks? Accidents happen, even if one hasn't happened yet, and spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into the fragile tundra where caribou feed could disrupt more than their mating habits. And, isn't there more to oil exploration and production in Alaska than the pipeline?

Surprisingly, the very next day such questions were answered in an editorial ("Go Slow in Alaska," May 18) responding to the Reagan Administration's support of new exploration for oil and gas in a wildlife refuge in Alaska. It stated that a (suppressed) Department of Fish and Wildlife report concluded "that environmental damage at Prudhoe Bay is far greater than had been envisioned when the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was built." The facts are "11,000 acres of wildlife habitat (have been) lost at Prudhoe Bay," and "the increase in caribou numbers may be attributable to the killing, removal or displacement of bears and wolves, the caribou's natural predators." This could be pretty bad, as a natural population without predators eventually eats itself into starvation.

At best, Bush's statements are pure campaign hype. At worst? Well, his apparent lack of knowledge and gross oversimplification of this complex environmental issue reminds me of President Reagan's statement that "trees cause air pollution." Their safari may not end until there are no wild places left on earth.

JOHN E. SARNA

Los Angeles

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