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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Turner
John Turner

March 17, 2004

John Turner
Good morning. I appreciate your interest in joining us to discuss an exciting initiative with our neighbors here in the hemisphere to launch a model integrated program to protect and restore our precious marine resources in the wider Caribbean region. We are pleased to have nearly 75 NGO, business, and governmental partners in this collaborative effort. This sustainable development initiative is representative of President Bush's unprecedented commitment of resources, US leadership and bold new strategies to reduce poverty in the developing world, advance economic and social wellbeing, and insure good strewardship of our environment and natural resources. I look forward to your comments and questions.
John Turner, Ass't Sec't, State Dept.

Jackie, from Dubuque, Iowa writes:
Many people are critical of the Bush Administration's environmental policies, claiming that the environment takes a back seat to other interests, including big business. How would you respond to these critics? What is the Bush Administration doing that you are most proud of? Thanks

John Turner

Thank you for your question. Perhaps we could do a better job in telling our story which is a positive one.

In my work on behalf of the United States, dealing with international environmental challenges, I am convinced that our country is the world leader in many areas of environmental stewardship, such as: forestry, fisheries, marine resources, toxic chemicals, protected areas, conservation of endangered species and ensuring adequate environmental assessments dealing with international investments.

I also believe that the Bush administration in terms of funding new initiatives and new strategies, has launched the strongest and most effective overall effort environmental stewardship of any administration in US history.

Craig, from Ogdensburg, NY writes:
What is the White Water to Blue Water Partnership?

John Turner
Hello Craig

White water to blue water refers to the continuum from hilltops to coral reefs. In other words, watersheds, coastal zones and the marine ecosystem.

The concept is that no matter what you do to protect fisheries and coral reefs you will have limited success if you don't also address land based sources of marine pollution such as deforestation, agricultural processes and sewage treatment, activities of cruise ships and development along the coastal zone which isn't approached in a coordinated manner.

The partnership includes the efforts of over 30 governments of the wider Caribbean, non governmental organizations, universities, and corporations, all working to improve existing programs, identify new public/private partnerships, and improve regional communication and collaboration.

To date, we have identified over 80 public/private partnerships that seek to leverage existing programs and expertise and to create new ways for governments and other stakeholders to work together to address these issues.

Molly, from Palm Desert, California writes:
If left alone, would the collapse of the ecosystem in the Carribean cause economic havac?

How important is environmental conservation in protecting world economies?

John Turner
Good question Molly.

President Bush believes environmental stewardship is closely corrolated with taking care of people. All of us as neighbors of this precious marine ecosystem depend on it for protein, jobs, quality of life and recreation. Improving and sustaining the economic and social well-being of the citizens of the Caribbean region are obviously dependent on the natural resources of this eco-system.

Therefore, our new approach to sustainability involves commitment to projects which incorporate economic, social and environmental improvement, with partnerships, capacity building to ensure better governance.

If you want to learn more, check out our new web site at

Anne, from Jacksonville, Florida writes:
Why are you particularly focused on the ecosystem of Carribean, as opposed to other bodies of water in the world?

John Turner
The Caribbean in the words of President Bush our "third border" and there are many existing US government programs in the region already. So its well-being directly benefits our citizens.

The wider Caribbean region offers the US and our other partners an opportunity to test a new model of integrated management involving terrestrial and ocean resources.

We hope to learn from this model and then apply it to other critical regions of the globe.

For this reason, we are pleased to have participants from Africa, the South Pacific and other regions of the world to come and observe.

We look forward to becoming involved in other challenged areas around the globe.

Frank, from DC writes:
How would the Department of State's policies on environmental issues differ from other environmental agencies like the EPA and the DOI? How is your perspective different?

John Turner
The EPA is an important member of our inter-agency team and bring their expertise in waste treatment, fresh water, estuary research.

The State Department has the opportunity to coordinate and facilitate the expertise and resources from other agencies such as NOAA (Oceans), Department of Interior (Wildlife, fisheries, preserves), Agriculture (forestry and agriculture expertise).

In addition, we are pleased to have the expertise and resources from many non-profit groups, academic institutions, private business and other governments.

Janet, from Portland, Oregon writes:
What is the U.S. doing to protect sea turtles?

John Turner

I have a personal passion for sea turtles and so I'm pleased to report that the Bush Administration has a robust program to protect our precious and threatened sea turtle resources.

For example, we are working through UN organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Maritime Organization and others to reduce bycatch kills of turtles, apply best practices, to long-lining and net fisheries.

In addition, we are advancing sea turtle treaties in the Indian Ocean, inter-American waters and the South Pacific, etc.

Also, the United States is banning shrimp imports from any nation that fails to adopt an effective sea turtle protection program with the application of turtle excluder devices (TEDS).

In addition, US agencies offer training and technical assistance to developing nations to protect turtles and in the Latin American region we are working with host countries to protect critical nesting beaches.

Edwin, from Washington, D.C. writes:
Would you rather have Notre Dame or the Michigan Wolverines win the NCAA

college basketball playoffs?


John Turner
Unfortunately they are both in the NIT. When Michigan and Notre Dame play each other I can never lose.

Donna, from New Orleans writes:
Why should I care? Shouldn't we be putting more money into saving our National Parks? It seems strange to me that this would be a priority when in the United States, the administration is decreasing environmental regulations, including snowmobiling laws at national parks. Once again why is our money going towards this?

John Turner
Thank you for your question but I do not concur with the assumption that environmental regulations have been compromised. The Bush administration has actually made a strong commitment to address the maintenance backlog in our Parks.

In the natural resource arena, I believe we are all learning that we are all connected. Being better stewards of our air, land, water and living wild resources impacts Americans directly.

The Caribbean eco-system is a critical breeding ground for a great deal of our commercial fishery resources . In addition, this beautiful region offers a haven of relaxation and recreation for our citizens.

Economic sustanability for our neighbors enhances the safety and stability for our region of the world.

Barbara, from Miami writes:
What do you hope to accomplish at the upcoming conference at the end of March? What specific details to you hope to address?

John Turner
The conference is a focal point of a long term initiative to improve the sustainable management of watersheds and marine ecosystems in the wider Caribbean.

We are focusing in Miami on bringing together stakeholders from the entire region: the governments, ngos, academic institutions, international organizations, the press and the private sector.

To date we have developed over 80 public/private partnerships that address the issues of agricultural practices, coral reef conservation, fisheries management, coastal wetland protection and the use of science in decision-making.

We hope by the end of the week to identify more concrete commitments on the part of governments and other stakeholders to reduce improper agriculture practicies, improve sewage treatment, improve practices in the tourism sector, etc.

Eileen, from Las Vegas writes:
How would you address the growing number of cruise ships in the Caribbean? The business is flouring, where is a common balance, can there be one?

John Turner
The cruise line industry is obviously important to US citizens and to the economy of the Caribbean. We also realize that this industry can have a significant impact on the sensitive resources of the region.

Therefore, we are pleased to bring together representatives of the industry, NGOs , regulatory interests and tourism bureaus to work together for approaches that can sustain the jobs and the economic benefits and at the same time ensure that their activities are compatible with the resource.

At the White Water to Blue Water conference next week, participants will discuss partnerships already identified by the cruise industry and NGOs. They will discuss the impact that recreational boating and marinas have in the region.

We already have identified four to five partnerships which address these issues.

Dan, from Washington writes:
What has developed in terms of Caribbean knowledge of the ecosystem and protection in this administration? From my point of view, a lot of talking but no progress. Any thoughts?

John Turner
Fortunately President Bush's personal commitment to help the poorer regions of the world is backed with the commitment of substantial resources.

The Administration has pledged an unprecedented level of new funding to carry out a comprehensive strategy to fight the crippling state of extreme poverty, address health care, improve economic conditions and advance environmental stewardship of any administration in US history.

Last year, he called for a $5 billion increase over three years in US development assistance to poor countries. And the President is on track to meet his $15 billion five year commitment to fight the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

Substantial new resources have also been committed to environmental initiatives such as climate change, protection of tropical forests, providing access to freshwater and clean energy and combating illegal logging.

In addition to dollars, the Administration has committed itself to a new strategy comprised of real projects, new partners, the utilization of science, and the integration of environmental, economic and social goals.

Jane, from Ft. Pierce, FL writes:
I'm into scuba diving. Does this initiative deal with coral reefs in the


John Turner
As a cowboy from Wyoming, I've always admired people that have the opportunity and expertise to scuba dive, I'd like to do more in the future.

Protection of coral reefs is a critical challenge in the US and the world community. The White Water Blue Water process focuses on coral reef and fishery management and to date we have developed over 15 partnerships directly benefitting coral reef conservation.

A list of all current partnership projects can be found on the partnership clearinghouse web site .. .

Some of these partnerships include the dive industry and tourism operators.

John Turner
Many thanks for all of your thoughtful questions. To find out more about this exciting new initiative, check out: or Looking foward to being here again soon.