Overview of the issue

The Clean Water Act, with its goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” is our most powerful tool for protecting wetlands and safeguarding water quality. It was adopted in part at the behest of hunters, anglers, and conservationists to ensure the nation’s supply of healthy water. However, since 2000, two Supreme Court decisions and responsive administrative actions have made implementation of the Clean Water Act unclear, leaving half of the nation’s stream miles at risk of pollution and destruction. In the past 15 years, we’ve lost wetlands at an alarming rate. The most recent national assessment of wetland trends documented a 140 percent increase in the rate of wetland loss—the first acceleration of wetland loss since the Clean Water Act was enacted 45 years ago.

In 2015, the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule to clarify which streams and wetlands the Act protects. Sportsmen broadly supported the agencies’ action. However, in February 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing the agencies to withdraw and revise the 2015 rule. The Executive Order tells the agencies to consider former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion on behalf of four justices as a basis for the revision. Following that opinion would leave 60 percent of U.S. stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands without the protection of the Clean Water Act, a certain tragedy for fish and wildlife, hunting and fishing, and clean water.

Why does TRCP care?

Clean, productive wetlands and headwater streams are important for everyone, but essential for hunters and anglers. Not only do they provide habitat for fish and wildlife, these waters and wetlands also reduce flooding, filter pollution, and recharge aquifers. A new rule must clarify how these areas will be protected at the federal level, based on strong science and a forward-thinking approach to watershed conservation. American sportsmen want cleaner water, better fish and wildlife habitat, and conservation improvements that build on the successes of the past.

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