Eastern Conservation Director
12/17/2003 -- Washington -- Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading fisheries conservation organization, expressed approval for yesterday’s decision by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abandon an effort to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act.
In January 2003 the EPA and the Corps announced a proposed rulemaking that would have significantly contracted the class of streams and wetlands that currently benefit from the protection of the Clean Water Act. Among the potential effects of the rule would have been the elimination of the act’s jurisdiction over many small streams.
Trout Unlimited, along with other fish and wildlife conservation organizations, strongly opposed the rulemaking, in part because of the critical role that small streams play in the overall health of watersheds.
The administration decided to drop the rulemaking after receiving strong opposition from many groups throughout the conservation community, including more than 100,000 comments against the proposal.
“We are glad that the Bush administration and its agencies have heeded the calls of the fish and wildlife community – many of which came from TU’s grassroots members – to drop this ill-conceived rulemaking,” said Steve Moyer, TU Vice President of Volunteer Operations and Government Affairs. “It was a grave threat not just to our trout and salmon fisheries, but to clean water throughout the country.”
The rule was announced in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision, commonly known as “Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County,” or simply “SWANCC,” that held that the use of an isolated wetland by migratory birds was not a valid basis for Clean Water Act jurisdiction over that wetland.
“We hope that the Bush administration and its agencies will now take steps to maximize protection of our nation’s waters by clearing up the uncertainty created by SWANCC,” said Moyer. “The first step that needs to be taken is to fix the regulatory guidance that EPA and the Corps issued last January. That guidance restricts the activities of EPA and the Corps more than needed under SWANCC, and still leaves some small streams and wetlands without the protection of the Clean Water Act.”
Trout Unlimited also urged the Bush administration to continue defending the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act in court, and to put its support behind legislation to correct SWANCC and re-establish the scope of the Clean Water Act that Congress intended when it first passed the statute.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.