Sportsmen and Sportswomen Slam Trump's Order Rolling Back Clean Water Rule

By Dan Bacher | March 3, 2017 | The Donald Trump administration has been in office only since January 21, but it has already managed ...

By Dan Bacher | March 3, 2017 |

The Donald Trump administration has been in office only since January 21, but it has already managed to alienate one key constituency — sportsmen and sportswomen — for its attacks on the nation’s key environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

Six national conservation organizations representing sportsmen and sportswomen on February 28 issued a joint statement condemning President Trump’s executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revise their 2015 Clean Water Rule, which was created to clarify protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The order directs the federal agencies to consider using former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's minority opinion, claiming that seasonal streams and many wetlands do not merit protection, as a basis for revising the rule, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Scalia died in February of 2016.

“Sportsmen will not settle for watered down protections or negligence for the habitat that supports the fish and wildlife we love to pursue,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which joined five other leading sportsmen’s groups in issuing a joint statement of support for the benefits of the Clean Water Rule.

Two years ago, sportsmen, conservation groups, and many other stakeholders generated one million public comments that helped to shape the final rule. The rule was broadly celebrated for restoring protections to 60 percent of America’s stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands previously at greater risk of being polluted or destroyed because of jurisdictional confusion, according to Fosburgh. Since May 2015, there have been several legislative plays and lawsuits filed to block or roll back the rule.

“If this administration wants to put its stamp on the rule, they should honor the years of solutions-oriented consensus on the need to reverse wetlands loss, which has been fueled by legal and regulatory confusion. More clarity for headwater streams and wetlands protections should be the baseline standard from which to improve the rule, not the target of a tear-down,” said Fosburgh. 

Fosburg said it “remains to be seen if it is even legal to ignore the majority position on a Supreme Court case. Meanwhile, the health of fish and wildlife habitat is the infrastructure of an outdoor recreation industry that fuels $646 billion in annual spending and supports more than 6 million American jobs.” 

The statement issued by the six groups — the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, National Wildlife Foundation, Izaak Walton League of America and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers — proclaims, “The Trump Administration is undermining the Clean Water Act. American sportsmen and sportswomen call on the Administration to protect headwater streams and valuable wetlands, keystones of America’s clean water and hunting and fishing heritage.”
The rollback of the Clean Water Rule could have a devastating impact on struggling salmon and steelhead populations in California and the Pacific Northwest.

“Anglers understand that healthy fish populations require high quality habitat and clean water,” said Rob Masonis, Vice President of Western Conservation, Trout Unlimited, and founder of TU's Wild Steelhead Initiative. “Salmon and trout don’t just live in big rivers and lakes, they often spawn in small streams, some of which go completely dry during the summer, and those same streams act as nurseries for young fish during the wet months.  

“If we don’t protect small headwater streams and the wetlands that feed them, we imperil our fisheries and undermine the enormous investments we have made to recover salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.  Anglers are not going to sit back and watch that happen without a fight,” he stated.
It is notable that California Governor Jerry Brown, who promotes himself as a “climate leader” and the “Resistance” to Donald Trump’s anti-environmental policies, has not commented on this latest attack by the Trump administration on the  nation’s fish, wildlife and water.

Could this because Brown is seeking to make a deal with Trump on support for the Governor’s “legacy project,” the Delta Tunnels — and a weaker Clean Water Act would make it much easier for the federal government to approve the needed permits to build the California Water Fix?
If constructed, the Delta Tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the struggling steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Below is the complete statement by the conservation groups:

Statement of sportsmen and women who support an effective Clean Water Act regarding today’s Trump Administration Executive Order on the Clean Water Rule

“The Trump Administration is undermining the Clean Water Act. American sportsmen and sportswomen call on the Administration to protect headwater streams and valuable wetlands, keystones of America’s clean water and hunting and fishing heritage

Does America need cleaner waterways? Or do we want to forsake decades of progress and allow degradation of our streams, rivers and wetlands? Those are the vital questions for the new Trump Administration and the 115th Congress.

American sportsmen and women want to move forward, not backward.

Yet, today, President Trump signed an executive order to start rolling back the Clean Water Rule, a new definition issued in 2015 to clarify what are “waters of the United States.” The legally sound and scientifically supported definition would ensure protection for headwater streams and wetlands.

The Trump administration Executive Order directs the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA to rescind and revise the Clean Water Rule. It directs the agencies to consider using former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s minority opinion that said seasonal streams and many wetlands do not merit protection as a basis for the revision.

If Justice Scalia’s direction is followed 60 percent of U.S. streams and 20 million acres of wetlands would lose protection of the Clean Water Act; a tragedy for fish and wildlife, hunting and fishing, and clean water.

President Trump’s reliance on Justice Scalia’s opinion is especially misguided and must be reversed. The Trump Administration must consider the benefits of the 2015 Clean Water Rule and make sure that any revised rule does the following:

• Restores longstanding protections for millions of wetlands and headwater streams that contribute to the drinking water of one in three Americans, protects communities from flooding, and provides essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy.
• Sustains the sport fishing industry, which accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water.  
• Sustains duck hunting in the U.S., including 1.5 million duck hunters whose expenditures invest more than $3 billion into our economy.
• Fulfills the aspirations of 83 percent of American sportsmen and women, from across the political spectrum, who believe the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the 2015 rule directed.  

The new Administration must listen to the voices of American sportsmen who want more clean water, more fish and wildlife habitat, and new progress building on the successes of the past.

Sportsmen and women will do everything within their power to compel the Administration to change course and to use the Clean Water Act to improve, not worsen, the Nation’s waterways.”

For more information, contact the following:

Kristyn Brady
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
(617) 501-6352

Steve Moyer
Trout Unlimited
(703) 284-9406

Ben Bulis
American Fly Fishing Trade Association
(406) 580-6887

Jan Goldman-Carter
National Wildlife Foundation
(202) 797-6894

Jared Mott
Izaak Walton League of America
(301) 548-0150 ext. 224

American Fly Fishing Trade Association
(406) 580-6887

American Fly Fishing Trade Association
(406) 580-6887


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