January 23, 2020

Sportsmen and Women: Rolling Back Clean Water Act Will Harm Habitat

EPA undermines protections for wetlands and streams

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency today announced a final decision to redefine which waters are eligible for Clean Water Act protections, leaving important habitat for fish and waterfowl vulnerable to pollution and significant harm.

Speaking at the National Association of Home Builders conference, Administrator Andrew Wheeler said he would be rolling back the 2015 Clean Water rule.

“This announcement flies in the face of all the hunters and fishermen who have contacted the EPA saying they oppose this decision,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These rollbacks undermine the intent of the Clean Water Act, which has a proven track record of protecting America’s waters and supporting healthy habitat.”

The new rule will leave roughly half of the nation’s wetlands and almost one out of five of its stream miles without federal protection from pollution. In drier western states, as many of 90 percent of stream miles will not be protected from being polluted.

Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, creating a federal regulatory floor for pollution control across the country, as well as a partnership with states to address the many threats to our nation’s waters. This was important because states had not had the financial or political resources necessary to ensure clean water. Now the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are asserting that for all of the streams and wetlands they will no longer protect, states could step in, if they want, even as the agencies acknowledge that many states won’t have the resources to do so.

In a national poll, 93 percent of hunters and anglers say they believe the Clean Water Act has benefited the country. Additionally, 80 percent of sportsmen and women said Clean Water Act protections should apply to headwater streams and wetlands. Additionally, 92 percent believe that we should strengthen or maintain current clean water standards, not relax them.

47 Responses to “Sportsmen and Women: Rolling Back Clean Water Act Will Harm Habitat”

  1. Lisa Waite

    he ongoing vagueness problem with the Clean Water Act is a concern that the Supreme Court has repeatedly brought up, including then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, who stated in 2016 in the oral argument for Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., “[T]he Clean Water Act is unique in both being quite vague in its reach, arguably unconstitutionally vague, and certainly harsh in the civil and criminal sanctions it puts into practice.”

    At the start of the Clean Water Act, Congress made it clear that it’s “the policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution … .”

    The Obama rule ignored this state role. When the federal government tries to regulate every water imaginable, it doesn’t leave much room for states and local governments to address water issues.

    Critics will argue that getting rid of this vast federal role in regulating waters will undermine water protection. Congress rejected that argument when it passed the Clean Water Act.

    Legislators recognized that states should play the lead role in addressing water pollution. That makes sense, because states are in the best position to address most water issues, and that’s because they are closest to the issues and can develop policy that’s tailored to address specific problems.

    The Clean Water Act regulations are also just one piece in a massive web of laws and programs that helps to protect surface waters. (In addition to other federal programs and laws, there is, of course, state and local governments.)

    It should also be noted that a separate federal law, the Safe Drinking Water Act, protects the water we drink.

    • Ron Simpson

      Lisa Waite. Your analysis is spot on. Vague definitions of streams, wetlands and seasonal flows have led to unintended consequences for land owners, and inevitably to those who wish to exploit them to frustrate lawful land uses.

    • Andrew Lacy

      There is no evidence that states are better positioned to address clean water. And that’s particularly true when a significant portion of waterways run between states. This is an interstate issue which needs interstate solutions and this was a very problematic roll back of protections. Hunters and anglers should be concerned.

    • Richard P

      In my opinion, the previous Administration vastly overreached when it amended (basically, by executive order) decades of precedent and body of law to impose the CWA on virtually every inch of soil in America. Many Americans railed against the move then, just as many (including TRCP) rail against the current Administration’s actions. The best solution would seem to be for Congress to clarify the CWA and provide clearer principles and legal guidance for when and how CWA regulations should be implemented going forward. Passage of the LWCA demonstrated that Rs and Ds can work together when they want to.

  2. Dave Peterson

    Despite clearly articulated concerns from countless conservation organizations, we experience yet another assault on the rules protecting our fish and the waters they swim in!

  3. Patti Delvillan

    We as a country must protect our natural resources. Of paramount importance are clean air and clean water. Removing protections will endanger human life as well as wildlife.

  4. The Federal government has zero business providing anything other than roads and military. Each state should have their own ways of providing clean air and water. It wouldn’t hurt to eliminate all of these programs and re-prioritize any funds toward clean water and air– basics. This would level the country for certain, but we should start over, endure the pain, and make things right for our grandchildren. No hand outside, no free rides, no whining, bootstrap your own life and respect the natural environment. If you pollute then you get your ass beat until you’re smart enough not to do it again.

  5. Douglas McCann

    This is what you get when you have a president like Diaper Don the Con, who grew up in limousines and penthouses, selecting Lobbyists for the Coal industry to lead our Environmental PROTECTION Agency. They mask deregulation as “freedom,” but its spineless cowards bending over for energy barons while simultaneously giving the middle finger to our ecosystems and honest men and women who believe in the virtue of stewardship of our land and waterways.

  6. Danny Branch

    Once again this president has show himself to be no friend to the land, water, air we ALL NEED to live. Just another developer who borrows other peoples money runs in destroys what there and leave the mess for someone else to CLEAN UP

  7. Linda J Whitley

    The water on the planet is not up for debate. There is not their water and our water. It’s connected! If you poison the groundwater, it is poisoned! Leave it alone! Get rid of the clown currently running the EPA and put someone in who is really for the environment, not corporations!!!

  8. Randy Slemmer

    And in a spite of all the mistakes and down right stupidity that this administration commits sportsman organizations, conservationists, and hunters still support them. Sci is having trump jr. at their convention bragging about how wonderful he is. I am now starting to drop anything that supports them.

  9. Ditto what Lisa Waite said. Also, there will be no reduction in the quality of water we drink or in the quality of any Watershed are and Wildlife Habitats in question.!!! If there is, please advise when and where. Until then, contact your States Fish and Game and ask if they are changing their enforcement …they are NOT, or at least they shouldn’t be.

  10. This is very important. Any wildlife habitat is important. Especially waterways because I feel they are the most vulnerable. They are polluted by roadways and factories more than any other resource. It’s sad to me that politicians have any control over it at all, whether at the state or federal level. It’s common sense to me that we need all of our natural resources to be cared for and that we need to do anything we can to ensure longevity in all categories. I hope for our future generations that it will become common practice.

  11. Sallie Hollinger

    Keep our water clean from pollution if we don’t we are just going to be one mass of sick and dying wildlife,people and everything around. Take a good look at where we are since tRump started changing all the good others before him have done, he doesn’t give a shot for any of the wildlife or their habitats or for the peoples wishes and safety all he and his cronies cate about is more money in their pockets. Frigging wake up America tRump is killing us slowly an getting richer for it !!

  12. This is painfully ridiculous, I expect there will be enough people who disagree with this mistake to make a change for the better!? Speak up , sign everything you see to oppose this disgrace….

  13. Water quality, like air quality is a federal issue more than a state issue because, like air, water flows between states. Remember the creamy pumpkin color of the mine waste water discharged in Colorado’s Animas River in 2015? You can rest assured New Mexico remembers. Say WY tries to bolster its fading economy by greatly reducing water regulations for coal, gas and oil operations. That waste goes into the Colorado River, which CA, NV and AZ depend on for their domestic water.

  14. This rollback is obscene. All of the hard work sportsman and others have done to clean up and conserve for future generations is now at risk. I’ve never been a single-issue voter but that may be changing now.

  15. I understand that many of the lobby efforts to rollback the CWA come from the Ag community who are unable to irrigate their fields. Not sure if their WOTUS arguments are directly related to the Clean Water Act, but I suspect that some parts of the CWA are hard on our Ag brothers, and that the Trump Administration is trying to help those folks out. It would be nice if the conservation and Ag communities could work together on this to come up with a good compromise.

  16. Greg Jackson

    I’ll vote Democrat over Republican everyday of the week just to protect the outdoors. Democrats did more for TN’s outdoors and it’s hunting rights than any Republican ever has.

  17. Every single person in America who cares at all about our air, land, water, and wildlife have to vote for politicians who support our air, land, water, and wildlife. Trump and his administration and those politicians (sadly many if not most of them Republicans) and organizations who support them are not it. This is not the time to compromise on anything. We will have no healthy air, land, water, or wildlife if this administration and those that support any of them continue to remain in control. Time for Americans to say enough, you will get no support from us if you do not do what is right to protect and defend “this house” – our air, water, land, and wildlife.

  18. William Blount

    I never thought the Reagan era could be surpassed as far as daily attacks on conservation and our environment. This administration only cares about profit and appeasing industry..ridiculous. This must stop and I hope too much damage has not already occurred.

  19. Matthew Vannatta

    Hunters and anglers are against the repeal of the Clean Water Act. Has anyone looked at the ridiculous ‘erosion’ control on any road repair job? They are “required” to use to reduce silt runoff into our streams and rivers. Has anyone paid attention to the banks of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers? One spot is a shoreline that is 2000′ long and has eroded 50′ deep, by 12′ high. What gives a person the idea we can stop ANY amount of erosion using the Clean Water guidelines? They are stupid. Hunters and Anglers, they do not own any of the land they want to save and if they did own any land, they too would feel the heavy handed restrictions limiting their freedoms. They cannot drain a pothole that might float one duck, one time every 5 years, but it is considered a wet land under the old CWA. More rules are never better.

  20. Maria Ann Correale

    Unfortunately, this administration does NOT care about our environment, water, land , air and wildlife. We must fight and vote for people who care about what we the people care about. Common sense!!

  21. Michael J Holzman

    As we all know, under this administration the EPA as many other Departments have been neutered. The only way policies will change is if we vote out the current occupant of the White House and replace with an occupant that will reverse the damage that has been thrust upon this great nation of ours. It’s up to us, the voters to reverse the direction we are headed in. VOTE!

  22. Hugh Carola

    Especially If your Senator/s and/or Member of Congress is a Republican you MUST speak up strongly and repeatedly against this and ALL environmental protection rollbacks! The polluters and their DC allies are the only ones who benefit. NOT you, NOT me, NO ONE who truly loves and understands what it means to be an American sportsman or woman. We gotta reject the fear mongering, smear tactics and outright LIES perpetuated by the administration that divide the conservation community. The Ship of State is listing heavily – dangerously – and needs to come back to an even keel.

  23. The ying and yang of ruling by regulation on a poorly written act/law. If you want something to last, make it a law. Regulations are subject to the whems of the current administration, whomever’s that is. As I understand, much of this is a roll back of Obama’s federalization of / changes to / broadening of the Clean Water Act. Thus, what rules one administration can add, another may take away.
    Congress should do some actual work for the citizens and improve the Clean Water Act, and we wouldn’t be in this mess…

  24. John Meagher

    This is a setback for water quality, habitat and flood risk reduction. Thank you for your position. Undoing this new policy is important; as is providing federal funds to states to protect these wetlands and streams.

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September 12, 2019

EPA Makes Final Move to Roll Back Clean Water Protections

Conservation groups rally together to voice support for fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, and headwater streams

Conservation groups are opposing the Administration’s rollback of the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which was finalized today. The Administration’s action will leave roughly 50 percent of wetlands and 60 percent of stream miles across the country vulnerable to pollution and destruction. The 2015 Clean Water Rule had clarified longstanding Clean Water Act protections for millions of acres of wetlands and many headwater streams that protect communities from flooding, contribute to the drinking water supplies of one in three Americans, and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy worth $887 billion.

“Sportsmen and women are outside every day experiencing the benefits of clean water,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Rolling back these protections for wetlands and headwater streams threatens our hunting and fishing traditions and the outdoor economy that powers our communities.”

“No one wants to fish a lake covered in toxic algae, duck hunt in a bulldozed wetland, or pitch a tent next to a creek filled with feces,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Unfortunately, this Administration is working on multiple fronts to rewrite the rules that protect our waters, hoping no one will notice. The collective impact of these changes would be devastating for public health and wildlife across the country—and we will continue to fight to protect America’s waterways every step of the way.”

“Clean water is a basic right of every American,” says Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “To be effective, the Clean Water Act must be able to control pollution at its source. Unfortunately today’s action by the EPA places the health of 60 percent of the stream miles and the drinking water of one in three Americans at risk. Trout Unlimited will not rest, and will use all of the tools at our disposal, to compel EPA to reverse course on this misguided direction.”

“More than 100 million people across the US engage in fish- and wildlife-based recreation, approximately half of whom participate in fishing,” says Patrick Berry, president and CEO of Fly Fishers International. “It is clear the opportunities available to enjoy these outdoor pursuits is directly limited by the health of our natural systems and their ability to support healthy and abundant populations of fish and wildlife. Rolling back protections of wetlands, our lakes streams and rivers—some of the most diverse and productive wildlife habitats—not only compromises our natural heritage, but threatens the cultural and economic value of recreational fishing.”

“This rule will irreparably impact wetlands in America’s duck factory—the prairie pothole region—and threaten the health of riparian habitat critical for big game and 80 percent of all wildlife species,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Weakened protections translate to lost access and reduced opportunities for hunting and fishing. Hunters and anglers must not stand for shortsighted polices that compromise the integrity of fish and wildlife habitats that have been safeguarded for decades under the Clean Water Act.”

“EPA’s decision to repeal the Clean Water Rule is wholly unsupported by science, can’t be squared with the clear intent of the Clean Water Act, and fails the common sense test,” says Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director of Izaak Walton League of America. “To make matters worse, this is only a prelude to the second blow when EPA finalizes a new rule later this year that will further undermine protections for small streams, wetlands, and drinking water supplies across America.”

“The EPA is tossing out 50 years of peer-reviewed science and in doing so threatens to undermine the integrity of the Nation’s waters that support fish and wildlife,” says Doug Austen, executive director of the American Fisheries Society. “Allowing unchecked pollution and destruction in the waters and wetlands in the upper reaches of a watershed imperils the sustainability of fish stocks in both upstream and downstream waters and places valuable recreational fisheries and endangered species at risk.”

In a 2018 poll, 80 percent of sportsmen and women said Clean Water Act protections should apply to headwater streams and wetlands. Additionally, 92 percent believe that we should strengthen or maintain current clean water standards, not relax them.

More information about the proposed changes to the Clean Water Rule is available HERE.

April 15, 2019

Hunting and Fishing Groups File Final Comments Opposing Clean Water Rollback

14 national groups and 70 local affiliate chapters oppose the proposed weakening of clean water standards that would threaten fish and wildlife habitat

Today, dozens of national, regional, and local hunting and fishing groups submitted final comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of Clean Water Act protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles in the U.S. Their comments underscore the potential economic consequences for rural communities and outdoor recreation businesses and the species that stand to lose habitat if clean water standards are weakened.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has also mobilized more than 3,500 individual sportsmen and women to submit comments opposing the rollback during the brief comment period.

“At every step of the EPA’s rule replacement process on what waters qualify for Clean Water Act protections, hunters and anglers have been clear about their support for safeguards on headwaters and wetlands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The science supports protecting these habitats as interconnected to larger water systems, the economics of defending outdoor recreation opportunities and businesses makes sense, and Americans will continue to stand up for clean water to power their outdoor pursuits.”

The groups write that the proposed rule represents a “wholesale gutting of the Clean Water Act’s 47 years of protection for our nation’s waters,” with habitat that supports trout, salmon, pintails, mallards, teal, and snow geese in the crosshairs.

Read the detailed comments here. Fourteen national groups and 70 state and local affiliate chapters signed in support.


Photo by Project Healing Waters via flickr.

April 3, 2019

EPA’s Clean Water Rollback Will Double Down on Water Quality Challenges in the Everglades

Just as federal investments in largescale restoration efforts are being made, the EPA’s proposal would undermine water quality in one of America’s top fishing destinations

It’s bad enough that the EPA has proposed a rule that will leave more than 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles nationwide without Clean Water Act protection, making fish and wildlife habitat more vulnerable. But the rule could also worsen existing conservation crises in places like the Everglades.

In fact, the EPA’s proposed rule could leave at least 4 million acres of wetlands throughout the Everglades without clean water protections. And in Florida’s Panhandle region, an additional 800,000 acres of wetlands lack direct surface connection to other waters and would therefore lose out.

Florida has already lost more wetland acreage than any other state in the lower 48—nearly half of what it had historically. Now, this rule would make it easier to drain, develop, or pollute wetlands

These wetlands not only provide critical waterfowl habitat and flood protection, but they also filter out harmful pollutants. Phosphorus levels in Lake Okeechobee are already more than three times the recommended limit, and if wetlands aren’t filtering the flow of harmful nutrients into the Everglades and surrounding waters, this could mean more toxic algal blooms, red tide, fishkills, and beach closures that negatively affect recreational fishing opportunities.

Further, if landowners are no longer required to protect wetlands on private lands, then they won’t apply for Farm Bill or Fish and Wildlife Service programs that help preserve wetlands at the top of the Everglades watershed. This important marshy area north of Lake Okeechobee acts as a sponge and slowly releases water into the lake, through the Everglades, and eventually out into Florida Bay. Eroding protection for these wetlands could exacerbate existing problems with increased salinity levels and seagrass die-offs.

It’s no time to weaken clean water standards in Florida—the Department of Environmental Protection reports poor water quality for 28 percent of the state’s river and stream miles and 25 percent of total lake acreage.

Decision-makers are finally following through on years of promises and funding restoration work in America’s Everglades. Why would we roll back clean water protections just as this work to improve water quality gets underway?

Take action before April 15 to stand up for clean water and healthy habitat in one of the country’s most beloved fishing destinations.


Photo by Vincent Lammin via flickr.

March 22, 2019

Time is Running Out to Stand Up for Headwaters and Wetlands

Given the gravity of the EPA’s proposal on clean water protections, sportsmen and women need to speak up now

Often, we get to celebrate and take full advantage of the public’s significant role in shaping conservation policy. It’s something that makes our country, its one-of-a-kind natural resources, and the American system of public lands and waters very special.

When we ask you to take action for public lands, better water quality, or more investments in fish and wildlife habitat, it’s rare that we believe the odds are already stacked against conservation. Because when sportsmen and women unite, we tend to win.

But the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are not doing hunters and anglers any favors in the public process of vetting their new rule for what waters deserve Clean Water Act protections. In just the latest chapter of the debate over what constitutes “Waters of the U.S.,” the agencies have given the public just 60 days to comment on a proposal that would eliminate protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles across the country.

Before finalizing the 2015 version of the rule, the EPA held a 120-day comment period and ultimately allowed the public a total of 207 days to respond to the proposal. That was for a rule that made it clear that the Clean Water Act should apply to headwater streams and wetlands, because what happens upstream affects habitat downstream.

Additionally, the last administration held multiple listening sessions across the U.S. for the public to learn more about the 2015 rule. By contrast, only two in-person listening sessions were held on this new proposal—both in Kansas City. Elsewhere, sportsmen and women were not given this opportunity to hear from EPA staff or speak out in person about their concerns.

We think it should take more than two months of passively collecting comments to reverse course on decades of efforts to make America’s rivers, lakes, and streams fishable and swimmable. We think the EPA and Army Corps should have to face American sportsmen and women before stripping fish and wildlife habitat of Clean Water Act protection.

Sportsmen’s groups—along with elected officials, state agencies, and other organizations—requested an extension to the current comment period, but it was denied this week.

Since the EPA and Army Corps don’t want to give us more time, we need you to take action now. Our simple tool makes it easy to send a message to the EPA and your elected officials that hunters and anglers oppose this huge step backward for our wetlands and streams.

Top photo by USFWS/Katrina Mueller



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