Sierra Club Works on Presidential Campaign

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As President Bush and John Kerry prepare to visit Nevada again, the Sierra Club is stepping up its political involvement in the battleground state.

Dozens of Sierra Club members began taking to neighborhoods in Reno and Las Vegas on Saturday as part of the environmental organization's voter education campaign designed to highlight the candidates' differences on green issues.

Similar door-to-door efforts will be launched in upcoming weeks in other key battleground states, including Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire, spokesman Eric Antebi said.

The Sierra Club has been sharply critical of the Bush administration's environmental record.

"We realize there's no substitute to talking to people one on one," Antebi said, adding Nevada is the only state where an environmental issue could turn the election.

Nearly 50 Sierra Club members - most of them from the San Francisco Bay area - talked to more than 500 Reno voters on Saturday about how Bush and Kerry differ on plans to bury the nation's nuclear waste in southern Nevada.

Bush has approved Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as the dump site, while Kerry has pledged it will not be a repository if he wins in November. Kerry voted against the project in 2000 and 2002 in the Senate.

"There's a real clearcut choice here and we know the next president will have the power to stop it," Antebi said. "Nevada has the power to decide its own fate on Yucca Mountain."

Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

But in Las Vegas last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton defended the Bush administration's oil, natural gas and coal development policies on federal land.

Norton said the pace of development over the last three years has been the same as the last three years of the Clinton administration.

"Less than 2 percent (of federal lands) is going for energy production," she said.

Bush and Kerry are locked in a tight race in Nevada, according to a poll conducted July 20-22 for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the most recent available.

Bush had the support of 46 percent of those surveyed while Kerry had 43 percent.

A majority of Nevada voters said Bush's Yucca Mountain decision would have no effect on their vote. But among undecided voters, 31 percent said they would be less likely to vote for Bush because of Yucca Mountain.

"All I heard from voters today was how Yucca Mountain is their main concern in the election," said Sierra Club member Graham Stafford of Reno. "They don't want the waste here."

Kerry plans to visit Las Vegas on Tuesday, his third there this year. Bush is set to visit Las Vegas on Thursday, his third to the state since being elected.

With almost even voter registration among Democrats and Republicans, Nevada - with its five electoral votes - has been identified by both parties as a battleground state. Bush narrowly carried the state in 2000.