Environmentalists are hoping for a honeymoon. Still smarting from what is widely viewed as eight years of environmental backpedalling during the Reagan administration, environmental organizations are pushing hard and early for a better relationship with the Bush administration.
Leaders of major US environmental organizations met yesterday with President-elect George Bush to present a list of executive and legislative priorities for the next four years. And they emerged from the 45-minute meeting optimistic that a Bush administration will act more favorably to their cause than has the Reagan administration.
``I told Mr. Bush to `read my lips: Protect the environment,''' said Jay D. Hair, president of the National Wildlife Federation at a news conference after the meeting. ``And he said, `I will, I will.'''
The meeting was ``the most positive'' reception the environmental community could have hoped for, Mr. Hair said.
In addition, Bush and his advisers promised environmental leaders access to the transition team selecting new government managers for environmental positions, and access to the appointees before their confirmation, those attending the meeting said.
The new relationship will be tested early, though. Environmentalists have called on Bush to take swift action - within the first few months of his presidency - on a long list of issues, from acid rain to wilderness preservation.
That list - formulated as a ``Blueprint for the Environment'' - was released by a coalition of 18 environmental groups yesterday. Among its 700 recommendations, the blueprint calls on Bush to:
Address global warming as the single-most important environmental concern facing the nation and the world.
Convene a global environmental summit meeting as promised during his campaign.
Deliver an environmental message to Congress and the nation early in 1989 or highlight environmental issues in his inaugural address.
Elevate the Environmental Protection Agency to Cabinet-level status and seek congressional action to create a department of environmental protection.
Convene a White House conference on the environment in late 1989.
Ensure that when public resources are sold or leased, such sale or lease never occur at less than fair market value.
Propose legislation to increase the fuel economy ratings of new automobiles to 45 miles per gallon by the year 2000.
Increase federal support for research and development of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind-powered energy generators.
Direct federal agencies to prohibit the release of toxic wastes and other contaminants into the marine environment.
Direct that bilateral foreign aid money be allocated with an eye toward promoting environmentally sound development in the third world.
Develop and negotiate an international convention to identify and protect valuable plant and animal habitats worldwide.
The plan, Blueprint organizers say, is modeled on a policy checklist formulated by the conservative Heritage Foundation. That document, directed to Reagan appointees in 1980, is credited with helping shape Reagan administration policy in many areas. Though the content of the blueprint is different, the purpose is similar: to establish a point of reference for new government managers to use in planning policy.
Over a year in the making, the Blueprint document is framed in 17 so-called ``green books'' - summaries of policy history and recommendations for action by new political appointees.
``If you're an assistant secretary of a given department, you'll get papers on that subject,'' promises Thomas B. Stoel Jr. of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who is chairman of Project Blueprint.
Organizers say the blueprint could accomplish even more than the Heritage Foundation plan. ``Heritage did not have grass-roots organizations, and 100 lobbyists ready to go,'' Mr. Stoel adds.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Bush was at times sharply criticized by the environmental community for his efforts to weaken many environmental regulations during the Reagan administration. At the same time, environmentalists conceded that Mr. Bush's stance toward the environment was likely to be more favorable than Mr. Reagan's. They now appear cautiously optimistic that their ideas may soon gain Bush's ear.
Moreover, environmentalists assert, their effort to get the president-elect's attention is far more unified now than during previous presidential transitions in 1976 and '80.
During the transition from Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter, Stoel recalls, the environmental community was not well organized. Environmentalists with Georgia connections had priority access to the Carter transition team, there were hard feelings within the environmental community over political appointments to environmental posts, and the community was unable to generate a consensus about what issues should be a priority for the Carter administration, Stoel says.
More important, though, the environmental backsliding of the Reagan years has made organization and cooperation within the environmental community of paramount importance, says William W. Howard Jr. of the National Wildlife Federation, who is vice-chairman of Project Blueprint.
``Things were so bad with some of the Reagan administration appointments that people now have a really clear picture of how bad it can be if we don't get unified,'' Mr. Howard says.