George W. Bush, environmentalist

In the final days of his presidency, Bush moves to protect a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 7, 2009 2:50PM (EST)

President George W. Bush will leave office with a surprising distinction: As of Tuesday, he has now protected more ocean area than any president before him.

On Tuesday, Bush established three new national monuments, which occupy a total of 195,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The monuments are near American Samoa, Guam and Hawaii; one of them protects the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in all the world's oceans. Activities like commercial fishing and oil drilling are now prohibited in the areas Bush set aside, and certain species will be protected as well.

Even environmental groups like Greenpeace are cheering Bush for the move. "This is a truly rare opportunity for us to applaud the Bush administration!" Greenpeace says on its Web site. "The lesson in this development? In the game of environmental sin and sainthood, nobody is beyond redemption. Other world leaders who might be feeling guilty for not doing enough environmentally may also be looking for ways to atone for their sins. Perhaps if they all took this one leaf out Bush's book, we'd be a lot further along in reaching our goal - to save our seas - before it's too late."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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