Conservation Coalition Urges Focus on Clean Water

Partnership welcomes nominations of Administrator Jackson and Chairman Sutley, advocates restored protections for wetlands under Clean Water Act

WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of conservation interests today urged the incoming class of federal policymakers to restore federal protections for our nation’s waters.

Recent Supreme Court decisions and subsequent rulemakings have diminished the original scope of the Clean Water Act, leaving many wetlands and intermittent and ephemeral streams beyond the act’s protections. As a result, several national sportsmen’s organizations have asked members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – which tomorrow will consider the appointments of Lisa Jackson for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Nancy Sutley for Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality – to immediately elevate the issue to a top-tier priority.

The groups write: We look forward to hearing [the nominees’] views on a host of issues that affect environmental quality and fish and wildlife habitat. Of particular interest to our organizations is the restoration of key federal protections to our nation’s waters. Recent Supreme Court decisions (SWANCC, 2001; Rapanos, 2006) have weakened the federal protections for our nation’s streams, lakes, and wetlands provided by the Clean Water Act. These decisions have placed in doubt protections for isolated wetlands and intermittent and ephemeral streams respectively. Moreover, EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidance interpreting these decisions have effectively removed protections for many of these waters and placed unnecessarily high hurdles for the protection of other waters. In fact, the EPA estimates that approximately 20 million acres of wetlands and potentially 59% of stream miles are no longer protected as a result of its policies interpreting these Supreme Court decisions.

The groups continue: These waters have a tremendous impact on the lives of all Americans and provide numerous societal benefits. In addition to providing essential habitat to numerous plant, fish and wildlife species that benefit sportsmen, they also serve critical flood control functions, recharge groundwater, filter pollutants from drinking water sources and help control erosion.

The groups conclude: We seek support in Congress and from the incoming administration for quick passage of strong, bipartisan legislation that will resolve the confusion created by the Supreme Court and restore Clean Water Act protections.

“Our nation’s waters are too few and too valuable to entrust their vitality to a weakened and confused law,” said TRCP Initiative manager Geoff Mullins. “The Clean Water Act was intended to be a clear statement of the absolute importance of our aquatic resources, and we encourage our incoming leaders to adopt that same vision.”

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.