President goes to Colorado high country |

President goes to Colorado high country

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (AP) – President Bush thinned brush in a wildfire-prone forest and fattened the campaign war chests of political allies Tuesday as he left his central Texas ranch for Colorado’s high country.

On the first overnight trip since he began his monthlong break Aug. 4, Bush sought to highlight his commitment to the environment by helping to cut down low-hanging branches that could fuel devastating fires. And he hoisted logs into precut ruts meant to fight erosion by channeling water off a woodland trail.

”It’s great to travel up on the trail and see the wise public policy being deployed here – public policy to make sure that we reduce the hazards of forest fires, (and) smart management of our lands,” Bush said in a speech to about 300 people.

The forest-thinning work mirrored recommendations in a 10-year plan endorsed by the administration Monday. The Western Governors’ Association plan calls for the aggressive removal of brush, trees and debris that can fuel catastrophic fires.

Bush called the plan ”sound, smart environmental policy.”

”Through good management of our forests we can prevent forest fires,” Bush said before donning wraparound safety glasses and gloves, and going to work with the saw, at an elevation of 9,000 feet.

Bush’s visit to the park was the first by a president in 70 years, and thousands of people lined the streets in Loveland, Colo., and outside the park as Bush’s motorcade rolled through, the overwhelming majority supportive.

But a few protesters demonstrated against Bush’s environmental policies, including the possibility of opening some currently off-limits areas of the Rockies and Alaska to oil and gas drilling. One demonstrator’s sign read, ”Drill in the uninterrupted wilderness of Bush’s mind.”

Bush is also eager to prove he is on a ”working vacation,” and he brought a battery of aides who milled around as he leaned against a shovel during the park trail-rebuilding effort.

His mind was still in Texas, where he has likewise been hacking away at brush for a nature walk of his own on the ranch.

”I was just doing one of these on my place the other day,” he said.

As he placed stones along the trail, an entourage of aides and reporters stood to one side; behind him were the towering peaks of the Rockies, dotted with snow.

Politics seemed a world away, but Bush looked ahead to next year’s elections as he headlined a fund-raiser Tuesday night for two Republicans, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Sen. Wayne Allard.

While he was soft-spoken in the park, Bush got fired up before the audience of donors, shouting as he praised the two Republicans, listed his accomplishments and defended his education, energy, missile-defense and Alaska drilling plans.

Mindful of the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, Bush told the contributors, ”I need somebody I can count on in the United States Senate.”

He also threatened to veto any ”budget-busting” spending measures. ”The so-called surplus is not the government’s money. It is the people’s money.”

The event raised $1.4 million for the Republicans, a White House spokesman said. Attendees were served Colorado beef and peaches. The tables were graced with butter carved into three-inch-tall elephants.

Neither Owens nor Allard has announced re-election plans, but Democrats, believing Allard is vulnerable, have targeted his Senate seat.

The NAACP urged Bush to cancel his appearance at the fund-raiser at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, part of a hotel chain being boycotted by the civil rights organization, which contends it discriminates against blacks.

Menola Upshaw, president of the Denver branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Bush could give the boycott an enormous boost if he avoided the hotel chain.

Fred Kummer, vice president and chief executive officer of HBE Corp., parent company of the Adam’s Mark, insisted the chain is a leader in diversity. He said the chain will be exonerated when its case is heard in court in November. Bush went ahead with the appearance.

Denver baseball fans were expecting the president to watch the Colorado Rockies play the Atlanta Braves at Coors Field.

In his speech outside the park, Bush promoted his effort to allow religious groups to compete for a share of government social services money.

Otherwise, however, he steered clear of divisive policy disputes, instead endorsing a wide range of values that ”capture the spirit of the country” – and that few would oppose:

”Respect your mom and dad,” Bush said.

”Listen to your mother,” he ordered.

”We must have a responsible society,” he declared.

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