In a fascinating LA Times article the other day (for me at least) on environmental policy, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, discussed how much the administration is indebted to gun owners and sportsmans groups and that in the coming term there will be lots of action undertaken on their behalf.
Connaughton is the top environmental official in the Executive Office of the President. Both EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gail Norton report to him (well, in Norton's case, coordinate with him) and it is through his office that the president ensures the officials in those agencies understand what policies are important.
While environmental groups have enjoyed little access or influence during Bush's first four years in office, hunting, fishing and gun owner organizations fared better.
Gun owners voted by a 2 to 1 ratio to reelect Bush, but only after the president addressed their concerns that his policies were endangering wetlands and streams and turning prime big game habitat into massive drilling fields. In December, the president dropped plans to remove Clean Water Act protections for many streams and wetlands, and in October, he shelved a plan to drill in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, which is prized by anglers and hunters for its spectacular scenery and abundant game and fish.
Connaughton said those groups have "played a very strong role" in establishing policies on wetlands and oil and gas development in areas that are home to wildlife. He predicted they would be "strong and lasting partners" whose influence will not dim now that their votes have been cast.
Jim Range, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, an umbrella organization of hunting and fishing groups, said he believes administration officials will continue to respond to sportsmen's interests.
"He wants to help us where it's the responsible thing to do, and he and the folks at the White House have gotten that message out to the folks in the agencies."
I think your going to see an expansion of the CRP program for farmers (eeer, more pork) which has the benefit of expanding wetland acreage and helping hunters. Your also going to see (well, actually you probably won't see it till its done) a concerted effort to drop the prohibition (or at least amend it to allow CCW holders) on firearms in National Parks. I believe Connaughton is in a position to dictate, through a regulatory course, the end of the D.C. Gun Ban (D.C. itself is part of the National Parks system which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior and hence Connaughton's office in the White House.
Ok, then, lets start with Specter first.