As a presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hasn’t said much about the environmental issues facing America. He’s waffled on climate change, and supported approval of the Keystone pipeline and drilling in the Arctic, and that’s been about it.
But when he was a gubernatorial candidate in 1998, he took pains to show his concern about the environment — particularly one of the state’s signature animals, manatees. He even helped SeaWorld release a pair of rehabilitated manatees, one of them named “Little Jeb.” After he was elected, during a 2000 Cabinet meeting, he made his interest in manatees even plainer.
“There’s an endangered species that’s close to being extinct in Florida waters, and I don’t want to be part of that,” Bush announced. “It’s my favorite mammal.”
Yet when Bush had a chance to solve one of the biggest problems in manatee protection, he backed off, deferring instead to is own conservative ideology.
What happened with Bush and manatees remains one of the great what-ifs of Florida environmental history and provides a window into how he might deal with similar situations as president.