A Setback for Clean Water

  • Cover Story
Wetlands_J Clark Salyer NWR_credit Colette Guariglia-USFWS

Hunters and anglers need clean water to ensure healthy fish and wildlife populations. Farmers need clean water for livestock and crops. And every American needs clean water to drink, swim in, boat on, and enjoy.

Fighting for clean water and healthy wetlands has been a part of the Izaak Walton League mission since day one. Since 2001, that fight has focused on restoring Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands in our communities. This effort received a major boost in 2015 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Clean Water Rule. The Rule restores protections for many small streams and wetlands that are vital to safe drinking water and outdoor recreation across America.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration took a tremendous step backward today by announcing it is directing the EPA and Corps of Engineers to revise and rescind the existing Clean Water Rule. Specifically, the administration is looking to a minority opinion from the Supreme Court, authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to define what waters will be protected under the Clean Water Act. The policy set forth in Justice Scalia’s opinion has never been adopted by any court and has been rejected by Republican and Democratic administrations because it would dramatically reduce the waters that fall under the Act’s jurisdiction. Many smaller streams, as well as many wetlands, especially those critical to migratory waterfowl and other wildlife, would lose protection from pollution and drainage.

The League believes the Clean Water Rule is fundamentally sound and further delay in restoring protections for streams and wetlands risks long-term damage to water quality, habitat for fish and wildlife, and the outdoor recreation economy. Unfortunately, the administration has set a different course. To protect our nation’s drinking water resources and economy, revisions to the Clean Water Rule must not rely on Justice Scalia’s opinion to define waters protected by the Clean Water Act and ensure that any new policy:

  • Is grounded in the clear and overwhelming science on the interconnected system of waters. The protections in the existing rule are supported by more than 1,200 scientific studies demonstrating the connections between and effects of tributary streams and other upstream waters on larger downstream waters such as rivers and lakes; 
  • Effectively safeguards streams, wetlands, and other waters as required by the Clean Water Act. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to improve water quality nationwide –it is impossible to achieve that goal without protecting waters covered by the existing Clean Water Rule, including tributary streams and small wetlands; and
  • Gives hunters and anglers confidence that streams and wetlands will be healthy to ensure our outdoor traditions thrive for generations to come. Clean water and abundant wetlands are essential to hunting and angling nationwide. If this critical habitat is degraded, our hunting and angling traditions – and the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy – will suffer.

    Contact the White House and urge the President to ensure any new policy meets the League’s fundamental criteria. Visit of League’s online Advocacy Center today.