WASHINGTON, D.C., June 17, 2022 ---- The Izaak Walton League and six other conservation groups filed an amicus brief in a pivotal Clean Water Act case that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear in October. The ruling in the case, Sackett vs. EPA, is expected to set a test for determining when wetlands are "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted to restore and maintain the quality of the nation’s waters. In part, it regulates the discharges of pollutants into “navigable waters,” which is broadly defined as “the Waters of the United States.” In the current Sackett vs. EPA case, the Supreme Court is considering what the proper test should be for determining when wetlands are “Waters of the United States” under the CWA. The Sackett’s proposed test could deny federal protections to more than half of all wetlands in the country. Our brief argues that this test is unsupported by the text, structure, and stated purposed of the CWA.
Other groups filing the brief include that National Parks Conservation Association, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited. Together, these groups represent millions of national park advocates, anglers, hunters, and outdoor recreationists.
The groups argue that wetlands with a significant connection to traditional navigable waters must be included in Clean Water Act protections. They also maintain that the plaintiffs’ proposed interpretation of the landmark law relies on a flawed reading of the Act’s text, structure and purpose.
Through the brief, the groups show that the narrow interpretation proposed by the Sackett’s would remove Clean Water Act protections for the majority of wetlands in the United States, and state protections would not make up for the loss of federal protections. They also show narrowing the coverage of the Clean Water Act would have devastating effects on national parks, wetlands, rivers and streams, fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for the millions of people that enjoy our public lands and the outdoors.
Healthy rivers, streams and waterways are integral to the health of America’s national parks, public lands and all who visit them. The loss of clean water protections would have significant economic consequences for outdoor recreation, which supports $788 billion in consumer spending and more than five million jobs in the United States. More than 50 million Americans fished in 2019, where fishing and hunting contributed $200 billion to the U.S. economy.
Read the full brief here. The groups are represented by Kramer Levin Robbins Russell LLP. Comments from the group follow.
Jared Mott, conservation director, Izaak Walton League of America:
“Limiting the scope of the Clean Water Act by removing some wetlands from its jurisdiction based on their physical surface connections runs counter to science, the law, and common sense. The rule proposed here would eliminate protections for a vital link of our waterways, with no consideration of how a wetland disperses floodwaters, purifies drinking water, or provides critical habitat for wildlife. The Izaak Walton League of America is committed to defending the Clean Water Act and is proud to stand with our partners in this action.”
Lucas Bissett, executive director, American Fly Fishing Trade Association:
"Fly fishing takes its participants to amazing destinations and some of the most pristine ecosystems America has to offer. The American Fly Fishing Trade Association has always made the connection of economy and ecology and the Clean Water Act has been a vital component to that connection. Removing certain habitats or ecosystems from the Clean Water Act flies in the face of the connectivity of all our waterways and the downstream effects protecting our special places offer. Not only would these oversights potentially harm the ability of fly fishing anglers to enjoy the great outdoors, but it could also affect many businesses in the fly fishing industry from contributing to the economy. The American Fly Fishing Trade Association is proud to stand with others who understand the importance of maintaining the strength of the Clean Water Act."
Chad Lord, senior director of environmental policy and climate change, National Parks Conservation Association:
“We all deserve and expect clean water in our parks and for our communities. Our waterways are all connected and what pollutes one, impacts many. From thundering waterfalls to beautiful lakes, rivers, and beaches, protecting them is critically important for our livelihoods and worth fighting for. As the worsening climate crisis continues to create record flooding, increased severe storms and more, protecting clean water for drinking, swimming and fishing cannot wait.”
John Gale, conservation director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:
“For too long, our nation’s wetlands, waters and wildlife have faced uncertainty with shifting administrative policies that threaten fish and wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing opportunities and safe drinking water. Sportsmen and women have a proud history of investment in the conservation of our natural resources and we have a collective obligation to their future stewardship. Now is not the time to narrow the scope of this noble charge - we must once again come together to ensure our waterways carry the full weight of protection under the Clean Water Act."
Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited:
“Protection of wetlands and waterways under the Clean Water Act is critical not just for fish and wildlife, but also for the businesses, farms and communities that depend on healthy water. America’s millions of hunters and anglers know that dropping Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and waters is exactly the wrong idea. We support efforts by the EPA to develop a fair ‘Waters of the U.S.’ definition, rooted in science and reflecting input from a broad array of voices, that accomplishes the objective of the Clean Water Act—restoring and protecting America’s rivers, streams and wetlands.”
Jim Murphy, legal advocacy director for the National Wildlife Federation:
“Wetlands are essential for healthy wildlife populations and people’s ability to access and enjoy outdoor recreation. This brief shows the court that not only is broadly protecting wetlands critical to achieving safe and healthy water for people and communities, but it is vital to protecting access to treasured outdoor activities like trout fishing and duck hunting.”
Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership:
“The impact of this case on the future of fish, wildlife, and hunting and fishing is significant. We’re proud to stand with the other groups on the brief to shed light on the urgent need and strong support for conservation of our country’s headwaters and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. An overwhelming majority of hunters and anglers are in favor of strengthening federal clean water protections, and the habitat needs are very clear right now. As our waterways and wetlands face the impacts of climate change, it’s more important than ever to defend against a narrow definition of what qualifies for clean water protections.”
Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League fights for clean air and water, healthy fish and wildlife habitat and conservation of our natural resources for future generations. The League plays a unique role in supporting community-based science and local conservation and has a long legacy of shaping sound national policy. See www.iwla.org. Learn about the League’s century of conservation leadership at www.iwla.org/100years.
Michael Reinemer, Communications Director and Editor, Outdoor America; firstname.lastname@example.org; 703-966-9574 or 301-548-0150 ext 220
Jared Mott, Conservation Director, Izaak Walton League, email@example.com.