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Edwards Touts Plan For Parks, Conservation

Democrat John Edwards spoke up for hunting and fishing rights Wednesday in a western Iowa town where the vending machine outside a gas station sells live bait instead of soda.

Describing his hunting and fishing plan, Edwards said, "This is part of who I am and part of what I will stand for as president."

The former North Carolina senator said he wants to improve public access to America's natural beauty and its roadless back country. He called for strengthening the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management as well as encouraging private landowners to help conserve land.

Edwards also proposed reducing mercury pollution in lakes and streams by 90 percent and recruiting hunters and fishermen to help develop wildlife management plans.

Although he offered his plan in a rural area of Iowa, just a half dozen miles east of the Missouri River, the roughly 100 people who came to American Legion Post 141 to hear Edwards seemed most interested in other issues. They questioned him about private contractors in Iraq, foreign policy and genocide in Darfur.

Edwards said the military should handle most of the duties now left to private contractors in Iraq. If contractors must be used, he said he'd hold them accountable and make sure their actions were overseen by the military.

"Why in the world we are outsourcing the security functions of our military makes absolutely no sense to me," Edwards said.

On foreign policy, he said he would rely on his own experience first but would also surround himself with the best advisers from any political party.

Asked about genocide, Edwards said the U.S. should work to end the crisis in Darfur, but he stopped short of calling for American troops to intervene.

Mike Hanlon, of Glenwood, said afterward he was impressed by the way the crowd responded to Edwards and by his attitude.

"I just think Edwards can work with both parties, and he seems honest," said Hanlon, who hasn't decided who to support in the caucuses.

Edwards' stop in Glenwood marked the beginning of a four-day trip to Iowa.

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