Washington, DC – Today, more than 250 hunter, angler, and conservation groups from 28 states voiced their support for protecting the health of America’s water resources. In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers, the groups stated that they strongly support the agencies’ efforts to clarify which “waters of the United States” are protected by the Clean Water Act.
Wetlands and streams provide vital fish and wildlife habitat and are essential to the outdoor traditions that tens of millions of Americans enjoy. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 and agency guidance in 2003 and 2008 put these natural resources at risk of being drained, filled, or polluted. Guidance proposed by the Corps and EPA this year puts science back at the center of determining which specific waters are covered by the Clean Water Act.
“Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has made significant progress in restoring our nation’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands,” said Steve Kline, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “But the job is not done. Clean water must be a national priority, and the proposed guidance gives our nation’s water and wetlands resources the attention they deserve.”
“Hunters and anglers across the country clearly support restoring Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters,” said Scott Kovarovics, conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America. “EPA and the Corps must safeguard waters important to sportsmen by finalizing the guidance.”
As sportsmen weigh in to support proposed guidance and future rulemaking, the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to block efforts to restore lost Clean Water Act protections. Appropriations bills funding the Corps and EPA contain “riders” barring action on guidance or rulemaking in fiscal year 2012 and future years. These riders and legislation such as HR 2018 – which dramatically undermines the federal-state balance in the Clean Water Act – are attacking the nation’s most important water quality law.
“Wetlands and tributaries provide clean water for iconic systems like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, recharge aquifers, help retain floodwaters, and provide important fish and wildlife habitat,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, National Wildlife Federation wetlands and water resources counsel. “Protecting these resources is essential to protecting drinking water supplies, safeguarding flood-prone communities, and supporting local economies.”
Loss of Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands could also hurt the nation’s economy. Hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation contribute billions to the economy, but these activities could be sharply curtailed by water pollution and loss of habitat critical to ducks, trout, and other fish and wildlife.
“You can’t have fishable and swimable waters if substantial amounts of wetlands and headwater streams go unprotected by the Clean Water Act,” said Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs for Trout Unlimited. “Sportsmen and other conservation-minded groups strongly support clean water.”
For more information about the proposed guidance, read “The Clean Water Act Guidance: What It Does and Does Not Do” (PDF link).
Izaak Walton League * National Wildlife Federation
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership * Trout Unlimited