Melinda Kassen

February 19, 2019

A River on Fire Spurred Clean Water Protections for All Americans

A brief history of the Clean Water Act and how an EPA rule could strip many streams and wetlands of its protection

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland was so polluted by the steel mills that lined its banks the water literally caught fire. Sparks from a passing train turned into flames that billowed five stories high, causing $50,000 worth of damage, destroying a bridge, and halting rail travel. It was a national media event that spurred Congress to pass a series of landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, to clean up and protect America’s water.

Since the early 1970s, the Clean Water Act has been wildly successful, resulting in the restoration of hundreds of thousands of miles of rivers and streams that are now safe for fishing and swimming. The Act has helped hold polluters accountable and prevent 700 billion pounds of toxic pollutants from entering our nation’s waters each year.

Unfortunately, 40 years later the current administration is proposing to weaken its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act by redefining which waters are protected.

If you read the debate from when Congress passed the Act, it’s clear that Americans didn’t just want to protect large rivers that can accommodate barges. We wanted a comprehensive national program that preserved places like the Cuyahoga River in the east and the smaller headwaters trout streams in the West.

We must remember that intent as we gear up for yet another fight for clean water.

Some will falsely claim the Trump Administration’s proposed clean water rule is simply undoing what the Obama Administration put in place. But in 2015, the Obama Administration protected an additional 5 percent of streams under the Clean Water Act. Now the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are proposing to undo far more than that.  The new rule would eliminate protections from more than 18 percent of the nation’s stream miles and more than 50 percent of our remaining wetlands, including critical habitat for fish, ducks, and other migratory birds.

This new proposal would reverse decades of protections that were put in place to ensure clean water would be available for future generations. If this plan goes into effect, every hunter and angler stands to lose.

So now what? As a partnership that exists to ensure all Americans have great places to hunt and fish, the TRCP asks sportsmen and women to raise their voices. With all the other threats to our nation’s waters, now is not the time for the federal government to abandon its responsibility to conserve the streams and wetlands that support healthy fisheries and flyways.

Take action today and tell the EPA its proposal puts our nation’s water at risk.

 

Photo courtesy of Cleveland State University Library. 

16 Responses to “A River on Fire Spurred Clean Water Protections for All Americans”

  1. If this administration is allowed to continue on the path that they are on, with no one to stop them or stand up to them, they will trash our natural resources far and wide. We are going backwards at the very time we need to act in a manner to preserve, protect and defend our natural resources. Once they are gone and destroyed they will be gone forever. The wrong people are in charge of the EPA, the Dept. of the Interior, etc.

  2. Terry Betteridge

    I grew up in Greenwich CT, catching brooke trout above the American Felt Factory, and below it, seeing the river turn different colors depending on the day’s felt dye color. Below the factory the stream was literally lifeless; just a few years after the Inland Wetlands Act, it had begun to look like the natural Byram river above the pollution site. Today, fish and eels again migrate up and it’s just a beautiful stream to enjoyl

  3. Only a clear minority of voters support this president and his attack on the environment, the free press, science and truth; yet his enablers carry the day, though many of them may not really believe his lies. We also face a reality that the fossil fuel industry gladly enables this president to destroy what we hold dear. We urgently need brave Republicans willing to stand against this madness and stand up for truth and the Constitution. Friends, where are you? Your country needs you!

  4. Jerry Burke

    I agree with Roland England that we need brave and visionary Republicans (and Democrats) to be serious and persistent conservationists. Hunters and fishermen need to get on the same page and pursue a conservationist agenda. Lets face it, the liberal new Democrats are not the answer. The anti-gun, anti-hunting types must be opposed as well the non-careing pollution types. How can hunters and fishers to be gotten together politically? Together we could affect the course of conservation for everybody’s good.

  5. scott schaeffer

    This debate is aligned with the “Waters of the the USA” initiative that EPA has tried to institute. Whenever we try and launch comprehensive water quality, protection of wetlands, floodplains, etc. the extreme right proclaims “government over-reach” ? Don’t we want our government concerned about water? I don’t believe the EPA is even the least bit interested in putting businesses out of business, this is preposterous. They are interested in reducing flood water destruction, the Red Tide in Florida, wetlands for waterfowl, and protecting the billion(s) dollar fishing industry. Trump is too disconnected from how hydrology works, and where his lobster comes from to even listen.

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Kristyn Brady

February 15, 2019

Hunters and Anglers to Push Back Against New EPA Plan That Ignores Critical Habitat

Public comment period opens today on rule that would exclude many streams and wetlands from Clean Water Act protections

The Environmental Protection Agency today officially published a proposed rule that would roll back protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles in America. This kickstarts a 60-day comment period for Americans to weigh in on the proposed rule, which does not include Clean Water Act protections for ephemeral streams—those that only flow after rainfall—and wetlands that are not connected to other waters.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is calling on individual sportsmen and women to respond by April 15 and urge the EPA not to overlook critical fish and waterfowl habitat.

“Clean water is vital to our hunting and fishing traditions and the booming outdoor recreation economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, the TRCP’s president and CEO. “This proposal disregards the importance of smaller streams and isolated wetlands and the Clean Water Act’s 40-year track record of improving America’s waterways. A rollback of this magnitude puts fish and wildlife at serious risk. The EPA must listen to the millions of sportsmen and women who rely on clean water.”

Before finalizing the 2015 clean water rule, the EPA held a 120-day comment period and ultimately allowed the public a total of 200 days to respond to the proposal. The EPA is now only giving the public just 60 days to submit feedback on the replacement rule.

“The agencies need to give sportsmen and women sufficient time to speak out, given the gravity of this rule,” said Fosburgh. “Sixty days is not enough.”

Read the rule as published in the federal register here.

The TRCP is asking hunters and anglers to take action here.

Guest Blogger Nicole Qualtieri

February 8, 2019

Reflections on Roosevelt’s Country

A visit to Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch in the Fall of 2018 inspires a young mule deer hunter

Hunting season is here in my home state of Montana, and I’m headed east to look for mule deer. My dog in the backseat, my Weatherby .308 in its case, and my pack at the ready.

Opening the atlas for a quick survey of my route, a splash of green against the white only a few hundred miles ahead grabs me. Theodore Roosevelt National Park beckons from just over the North Dakota state line, right on the edge of the map. I decide hunting can wait for an afternoon. History calls.

The further east I get, the more the flat dreariness of winter-come-early sets in. The clear, dry roads become two lines edged in white, and the moody sky envelops much of the distant horizon. I’m one of only two cars when I roll into the parking lot at the visitor’s center.

Belongings and Bulletholes

The park sits on 70,446 acres that include parcels from Roosevelt’s original cattle ranches. And although the name itself has gone through a few iterations, no national park is more closely associated with a single individual.

Cottonwoods and red willows follow the Little Missouri River’s snaking path through the otherwise broken, sage-brushed landscape. Weather shrouds the tumbling edges of the park, clouds hugging the muted tones of this northern ground.

On display at the park’s headquarters are belongings and words from our twenty-sixth president. For the most part, they illuminate the mundane aspects of his life rather than the mythical. His cabin is preserved on ground, small and humble. There’s a note written to his brother. Photographs of T.R. and his friends. And a full tribute to his passion for birding, including a snowy owl he taxidermied himself. His essence fills the room. He becomes human here.

But it’s the bullet-holed shirt in the glass case that catches my imagination.

You likely know the story: In the course of Roosevelt’s failed bid for the presidency in 1912, a would-be assassin shot him before a scheduled address in Milwaukee. Fifty pages of notes stuffed into the candidate’s breast pocket slowed the bullet before it entered his chest, where it would stay for the rest of his life. Still, Roosevelt took the stage. Announcing that he had just been shot, he quipped that he probably wouldn’t talk long. He then carried on for 84 minutes.

This is a man who knew how to create a mythology.

In contrast to the ethereal nature of the Roosevelt lore is the tangibility of the public land beneath my boots, land that once held the footprints of the man himself. It stands as a powerful totem for the miles upon miles of public land that I’ve taken in as a hiker, backpacker, hunter, and angler. The reality of it makes its way into words as I continue into the park itself: T.R.’s life molded stories that still resonate in our cultural memory, but he also created a physical continuity of place for those, as he famously declared, still in the “womb of time.”

This is the same land where Roosevelt grieved the deaths of his mother and his wife, who both passed on the same day in 1884. In his mourning, he found solace among this wild and broken country. He then saw his own sense of loss reflected in the waning numbers of bison and other wildlife vanishing from the plains. With the strength he drew from the land, he derived a sense of purpose infused with hope.

This land beneath my boots became the fertile ground for the seeds of a national conservation ethic.

A Test of Wills in the Sagebrush

Back into the cold, with daylight quickly fading. Small snow flurries land on my eyelashes and shoulders. In the distance my searching eyes catch three big bull elk, animals reintroduced to this country, now thriving. The humped silhouettes of Roosevelt’s beloved bison graze on far hills. A bounding whitetail deer disappears into the cottonwoods, white flag waving. And then I pull around a corner to face a tank of a mule deer buck walking the edge of the road.

His head is low to the ground, and his behavior is strange. As the car moves closer, another set of tines below him grows visible. I can hear the deer grunting at each other. The smaller buck pins his ears and averts his gaze, submissive. The big guy drops down the hill, circling around until they’re head on. Antlers lock for one moment. Then, the bucks crash into each other with every amount of muscle in their powerful bodies. Pummeled backwards through the sage, the little buck is outmatched. He escapes with a poke in the butt and a chase along the hilly horizon.

The drama of this high-stakes encounter seems befitting of this place—T.R. himself was fond of an old-fashioned test of wills—and all the more-so because the mule deer so perfectly embodies the sagebrush country that shaped Roosevelt’s life.

It’s also a reminder that the rut is on and I’m planning to hunt in the morning, so I best get back on the road.

History, Hunting, and a Heavy Pack

To public land I go.

The days that follow take me to a wilderness study area, BLM land, and a national wildlife refuge. Each step in the rugged breaks country is another gift from Roosevelt’s generous legacy. I barely see a thing before spotting my buck from over a mile away on Montana state land.

I walk that mile through the sagebrush slowly and intentionally. I set up within a hundred yards, prone in the cold, wet dirt. I have the wind. And I study him thoroughly. He’s everything I love in a mule deer. Thick-bodied, wildly unibrowed, and handsome. Crowned like a king.

There are only a few days left in the season, and I promised myself I’d take the first ethical shot on an animal that presented the opportunity. I wait for what seems like an eternity for him to turn broadside, but in my heart I’m telling him to run and to run far and fast. With five minutes of shooting light to spare, he steps to the side. My heart isn’t ready, but the hunter within flips to fire and pulls the trigger. The hit is solid, well-placed. I chamber another round, but there’s no need. I put down my rifle, my heart breaks, I cradle my head in my hands.

Later, kneeling beside him, I notch the date into my tag: November 20, 2018. I roll the tag, tape it onto his leg, and begin to quarter him out.

Roosevelt’s glorious heritage is now mine to hold. I take it all in. My mule deer’s coat is thick, healthy, buoyant to the touch. He smells deeply sweet, a concentrated musk of sage and this arid earth beneath us. He made a life on habitat protected for his sake. The ground that sustained him will soon sustain me.

“I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of today unless he has some knowledge of—a little more than a slight knowledge, some feeling for and of—the history of the world of the past,” Roosevelt said.

And this knowledge is what brings me out of my initial grief and back to the sinew and muscle in front of me, to the sky going navy above me, and to the sagebrush sea before me. This is what brings me back to the privilege of being here—two hands on a deer and two feet on public ground.

The passage of time has seen the roots of our public lands heritage grow deeper. Roosevelt’s country has no doubt changed over the years, yet it remains intact. Still, the conservation ethic that he upheld and turned into a physical reality for all Americans remains imperiled to this day. It, too, takes a bullet in the chest and stands tall, time and time again.

As I quarter my deer, slowly, deliberately, I know that the great central task of upholding this public land inheritance and passing it along to those who come after me is a hell of a thing to take on. The weight of this uncertain future is heavy, and it rests on the shoulders of anyone who seeks to leave this place better than we found it.

I finish quartering my deer and fill my pack to overflowing. I tighten the straps on my shoulders, braced for the work ahead.

 

Nicole Qualtieri is the hunting and fishing editor for GearJunkie.com and a freelance creative. She’s an outdoorswoman, a public lands advocate, and an amateur gourmand. When the weather warms up, you’ll find her astride her little brown horse with a border collie in tow, high in the Montana hills.

Kim Jensen

January 18, 2019

Four Questions Sportsmen Need the Next EPA Chief to Answer

As Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler is considered for the top job at EPA, hunters and anglers want a clear commitment to clean water and habitat

There is no question that the next chief of the Environmental Protection Agency will have an outsize impact on our clean water resources and hunting and fishing opportunities for years to come. Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the agency and Trump’s nominee for the permanent position, faced tough questions from senators in a confirmation hearing this week—hunters and anglers have a few more.

Will he give sportsmen and women, the original conservationists, a seat at the table?

Hunters and anglers experience the direct and downstream impacts of nutrient runoff, abandoned mines, and wetlands loss firsthand, and we have historically played a central role in the responsible conservation of America’s water, wildlife, and lands. We need to know if Wheeler will commit to including the voices of sportsmen and women in policy decisions.

Will he give the public ample opportunity to speak out for clean water?

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Water Rule and are giving the public 60 days to comment. Before the 2015 rule was finalized, comments were collected for 200 days. With Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and ephemeral streams—including many headwaters—on the line, we’re asking if Wheeler will extend the comment period so more hunters and anglers can provide feedback.

How hard will he work to help Americans understand what the new rule does?

Right now, there is only one in-person listening session planned for the public to hear from the EPA and Army Corps on the Clean Water Rule. This is such an important part of the democratic process, and in-person interaction helps to put a human face on the concerns of sportsmen and women. Will Wheeler commit to holding more listening sessions so that Americans can tell their stories and understand the true impacts of the rule?

How can we work together to improve, rather than weaken, habitat?

The agencies have proposed eliminating Clean Water Act protections for ephemeral streams and isolated wetlands in the Clean Water Rule replacement. These waters and wetlands provide important habitat for juvenile fish and nesting migratory birds. Perhaps the most critical question is simple: How does Wheeler intend to conserve these habitats that support healthy fish and wildlife populations, hunting and fishing opportunities, and America’s outdoor recreation economy?

 

Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program

January 1, 2019

President Trump Signs the Modern Fish Act

The differences between recreational and commercial fishing are finally recognized by law

The recreational fishing and boating community is celebrating the enactment of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018, or the Modern Fish Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2018. The Modern Fish Act finally recognizes, in federal law, the differences between recreational and commercial fishing and adds more appropriate management tools for policymakers to use in managing federal recreational fisheries.

“Millions of American families take part in saltwater recreational fishing and boating activities and support multi-billion dollar industries that generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “Today, we are thankful for this important milestone for federal fisheries management and marine conservation, and we look forward to continuing to improve public access to our nation’s healthy fisheries.”

The Modern Fish Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Garret Graves (R-La.), enjoyed strong bipartisan support from a long list of cosponsors representing coastal and non-coastal states alike. On December 17, the Senate unanimously passed the Modern Fish Act (S. 1520) followed by overwhelming approval in the House (350-11) on December 19.

“This is historic for the recreational boating and fishing community, capping years of hard work to responsibly modernize recreational saltwater fisheries management,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “The Modern Fish Act is a critical first-step solution towards establishing a framework for expanding access to recreational saltwater fishing, while ensuring conservation and sustainability remain top priorities in fisheries management. We thank President Trump and Congress for making the Modern Fish Act the law of the land and look forward to working with them in the coming years to advance polices that protect and promote recreational saltwater fishing.”

“The recreational fishing industry is grateful to see this legislation enacted,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, as well as NOAA Fisheries and the regional fishery management councils, to improve the management and conservation of our marine fisheries.”

“The Modern Fish Act signed by the President provides an opportunity for significant, positive change on behalf of millions of recreational anglers who enjoy fishing in federal waters,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “We look forward to working with NOAA Fisheries, the regional fishery management councils and the states to fully implement the provisions of the bill and improve federal fisheries management for America’s saltwater anglers.”

“CCA is proud to be a part of this important coalition, and we are grateful to our champions in Congress who stood by us during the intense, sometimes contentious negotiations on this legislation,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “There is still work to be done, but this is a valuable first step. We are hopeful this opens the door to an ongoing discussion of tools and processes that can be developed to better manage recreational fisheries in federal waters in all regions of the United States.”

“This bill becoming law is the most significant step forward in federal recreational saltwater fishing management in the forty-plus years of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” said Whit Fosburgh, president of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Recreational fishermen, conservationists and businesses united around a set of principles and worked together to get this bill passed and we will continue to work together on priorities like forage fish management and improving data collection in the future.”

The recreational fishing and boating community would like to thank the sponsors of the Modern Fish Act, Senator Wicker and Congressman Graves, who led this bipartisan effort in the 115th Congress to improve federal fisheries management for America’s 11 million saltwater anglers. We also appreciate the support of Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Congressmen Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).

The Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:

  • Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
  • Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
  • Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
  • Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.

The coalition of groups supporting the Modern Fish Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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