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Bush Hunts, Fishes For Votes

You can't say it's just another day for President Bush.

Thursday, he'll be briefed as usual on national security issues, but after that morning meeting, his national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice will head over to Capitol Hill to testify before the Sept. 11 Commission.

The president isn't saying whether he - like many other Americans - will be glued to the TV set, watching and listening to Rice's testimony on the administration's moves against terrorism.

He's got other fish to fry.

As soon as Rice's testimony ends, Mr. Bush is expected to move on to other business: namely, a tour of his Texas ranch for hunting and fishing enthusiasts, some of whom are angling for support of a bill to provide $50 million in cash incentives to open more private land to hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related activities.

The president will also, later in the day, sit down for an interview with Ladies' Home Journal.

As for the 20 groups of hunters, fishermen and their advocates who'll be touring the spread in Crawford with the president, the White House describes the groups as "wildlife conservation organizations."

Many are very interested in preserving environments: specifically, the habitats of fish and game.

As part of their visit to Crawford, they'll get a chance to meet with James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

A partial list of Thursday's guest list includes Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, the Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The last three groups have a lot in common.

Safari Club International says its goal is to "protect and preserve our hunting heritage through wildlife conservation, education, legislative and humanitarian efforts."

The Sportsmen's Alliance, on its Web site, says it "provides direct lobbying and grassroots coalition support to protect and advance the rights of hunters, fishermen, trappers and scientific wildlife management professionals."

And the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, instead of being primarily an environmental group - as it name suggests - says its main mission is to "Guarantee You a Place to Hunt and Fish."

Some of Mr. Bush's guests for the one-hour visit are leaders of the organizations, while others are staffers from their affiliated magazines.

Mr. Bush is an avid fisherman, and occasionally casts into the bass pond just steps from home on the ranch. He picked the sport up from his father, the former president, and has passed it on down to his own children.

On New Year's Day, he went quail hunting in southern Texas with George H.W. Bush - the most celebrated member of Ducks Unlimited.

Also in December, the current president met at the White House with John Tomke, president of Ducks Unlimited, for a meeting on wetlands protection.

The president leaned over to tell Tomke how much he enjoys hunting on the Texas Gulf Coast, where green-headed mallards and pintails flock every autumn. Tomke, in turn, reminded Bush that 22,000 hunters were among the 133,000 Americans who filed protests to a Bush administration wetlands plan that could have cleared the way for developers to bulldoze 23 million acres of fragile wetlands.

Four days later, the administration announced the president had personally decided "not to issue a rule that could reduce" federal wetlands protection, including smaller parcels important to wildlife called "isolated" wetlands.