Stand with Sportsmen and Conservationists for Clean Water

from Wildlife Promise

Whether you’re an angler, hunter or wildlife viewer — or, perhaps like many of us, are all three — you understand the importance of watery habitats for wildlife.  These habitats not only include the obvious, such as larger rivers and lakes, but also the water bodies we don’t see as often. Headwater streams provide important spawning and rearing habitat for fish, while wetlands are utilized for breeding, rearing, and migrating by waterfowl. Both wetlands and headwater streams help provide important drinking water for wildlife and people of all shapes and sizes.

Sportsmen, especially those that duck hunt and fish, are a vitally important voice that must be engaged to enact the proposed Clean Water Act rule.  (Photo by Steve Woodruff)

Sportsmen and sportswomen are vitally important voices that must be engaged to enact the proposed Clean Water Act rule. Photo by Steve Woodruff (NWF Staff)

Unfortunately, over the past decade, safeguards for many streams, lakes and wetlands have steadily eroded. Two Supreme Court decisions and subsequent administrative guidance in the 2000s removed Clean Water Act protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands, allowing for the pollution and degradation of much critical habitat that was previously protected.

The recently proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ensures the Clean Water Act once again safeguards many — but not all — streams, lakes, and wetlands that had lost protections due to the court decisions.

There’s a great deal of misinformation out there about what the rule actually does and does not do. Attacks against the proposed rule are primarily based on exaggeration and extreme worst-case scenarios, and often have very little grounding in actual fact. Many are just plain false.  Politically, these attacks have included a proposed rider to a Senate spending bill, a recently introduced Senate bill, and a charged House hearing on the subject, among others.

Despite what the opposition says, the proposed rule doesn’t protect all waters of the U.S. and doesn’t change the definition of navigability. It does provide exemptions for many farming, timber and other land-use activities, and leaves many important waters at risk to these operations. The proposed rule is a compromise solution that restores protections for some wildlife habitats but also ensures many protections for landowners. 

Getting this proposed rule passed and implemented is an important battle for everyone that cares about wildlife and clean water. It’s also vitally important that sportsmen and sportswomen be involved. Rarely have so many sporting organizations come together on a common cause as they are with this one. Back in 2008, Congress had the opportunity to act, but didn’t, and again sportsmen are united to achieve administratively what Congress has been unable or unwilling to do legislatively.

If you’re an angler and/or hunter wondering if your voice matters, you need look no further than this struggle. Know that you do matter and can make a difference, even during these days of political polarization and corporate spending. Sportsmen engagement likely kept the Senate rider from derailing the proposed rule in June. In fact, shortly after the rider was defeated, President Obama, said “I am going to stand with sportsmen and conservationists against members of Congress who want to dismantle the Clean Water Act.”

Take ActionIt’s been decades since there’s been a federal conservation action as significant for trout fishing and duck hunting as the current proposed Clean Water Act rule. These clarifications of an already existing law are currently open for public comment and are already under heavy attack, so now is a critical time to show your support for the habitat ducks, fish, and our outdoor traditions depend on. Take a stand with other sportsmen and conservationists: support the proposed Clean Water Act rule.