Hunters and anglers celebrate brief reprieve for headwater streams and wetlands before preparing for a fresh threat to the Clean Water Rule
In a Senate vote today, “The Federal Water Quality Protection Act,” S.1140—which would have stripped Clean Water Act protections from some waters and nullified a rule to clarify protections for others—was defeated.
“For all Americans who love trout, beer, and a nice glass of water, today is a great day,” says Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president for government affairs. “We thank all of the senators who stood with sportsmen, turned away the blizzard of bad information, and supported clean water.”
Earlier this week, eight of the country’s leading sportsmen’s groups sent Senators a letter opposing the legislation, introduced by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, saying that it would leave headwater streams and wetlands at risk, despite a multi-year public rulemaking process that highlighted the need to protect these areas. “Senators who voted against the Barrasso bill voted for clean water and the outdoor recreation economy, which depends on healthy streams and wetlands,” says Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “These lawmakers followed science and common sense and listened to hunters and anglers, who overwhelmingly support conserving vital water resources.”
A recent National Wildlife Federation poll found that 83 percent of sportsmen and women think the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the new Clean Water Rule directs. “The science behind the rule is strong, as is its public support, and these streams and wetlands are critical for fish, wildlife, and our way of life,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the NWF. “So, while we are pleased that this bill failed to reach cloture, and we thank the senators who voted for clean water today, but it’s hard to understand why it was up for debate in the first place.”
Despite this support, not to mention the rule’s benefits for drinking water for one in three Americans and flood protection for local communities, multiple threats remain. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has called for the use of the Congressional Review Act to overturn the current rule and prevent any future rulemaking. The Senate is expected to turn to Sen. Ernst’s proposal next. [Updated 11-5-2015 3:48 p.m. ET: Sadly, the Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 22 on Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. Fortunately, the president is sure to veto S.J.Res.22.)
“Hunters and anglers must remain vigilant despite our victory today,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Many in Congress are determined to undercut the safeguards we need to enjoy clean water and quality days afield, whether it’s through obscure legislative processes or tucking offending provisions into thousand-page must-pass spending bills at the end of the year.”
“Everyone who likes to spend time outdoors—whether to fish or swim—needs to pick up the phone and let their senators know that clean water is non-negotiable,” says O’Mara.