Thirteen prominent sportsmen’s groups representing millions of hunters, anglers, conservationists, and resource managers nationwide today delivered a strongly worded letter to administration officials urging immediate action to clarify and restore Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s wetlands, lakes and streams.
Addressed to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Howard Shelanski, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the sportsmen’s letter asks the administration to deliver on promises made in 2008 by presidential candidate Barack Obama to restore the CWA’s protections to wetlands and other waters left in legal limbo.
Signatories include the American Fisheries Society, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, B.A.S.S., Berkley Conservation Institute, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, The Wildlife Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and Wildlife Management Institute.
“For more than two years, the administration has conducted a comprehensive interagency and public process to clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act in a manner that is both legally and scientifically sound,” states the sportsmen’s letter. “We appreciate the heavy investment of resources in this effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the Council on Environmental Quality.
“However, the guidelines for identifying waters protected by the Clean Water Act have been pending at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for more than 18 months – since February 2012. Continued delay is inexcusable and puts critical wildlife and habitat at risk.”
The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers released draft replacement guidelines for public comment in early 2011. More than 230,000 comments – the vast majority positive – were submitted on the draft.
Clean water protections for millions of small and intermittently-flowing streams and wetlands have been in limbo for more than a decade because of a pair of Supreme Court cases and flawed policies put in place to implement those court rulings. As a result, the viability of many valuable wetlands, lakes and small streams is threatened, and others are harder to protect.
These waters and wetlands absorb flood waters, filter pollutants and contribute to the drinking water supply of more than 117 million Americans. They also support fish, waterfowl, and healthy waters that are prized by anglers and hunters and that support a multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry. Anglers alone generated nearly $115 billion in total economic activity in 2011, breathing life into rural communities and supporting more than 1 million jobs across the country.
“Action to protect the nation’s waters from pollution and habitat destruction is long overdue,” the sportsmen’s letter concludes. “We urge you to act immediately to finalize the guidance and launch the formal rulemaking that all sides agree is badly needed to provide clarity and certainty to landowners, developers, conservationists, and state and federal agencies alike.”
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