Spending bill would make significant investments in salmon restoration, climate resiliency, and public lands; WOTUS proposal restores stream protections
Contact: Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs, Trout Unlimited, email@example.com; (571) 274-0593
ARLINGTON, Va.—Legislation that cleared the House of Representatives today would invest billions of dollars in salmon restoration, climate resiliency projects, and public lands conservation. Critically, the bill contains multiple market-based mechanisms, including tax incentives for green energy sources, that will help substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the root cause of climate change.
Passage of the bill comes as the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that would reaffirm Clean Water Act coverage of headwater streams and wetlands.
The Build Back Better legislation—paired with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed earlier this week—would help make communities and their lands, waters and fisheries more resilient to climate change impacts, including more frequent and intense drought, wildfires and storms.
“This legislation would make important strides in addressing the root causes of climate change and in helping our communities adapt to changes that are already underway,” said Steve Moyer, vice president for Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. “After a year of epic wildfires and historic drought in the West and catastrophic flooding in the East, it is more clear than ever that we need to act. By providing incentives to shift us to clean energy, and by investing in natural solutions that make our communities more resilient to climate change, the legislation sets us on the right course.”
Among the other benefits of the bill for trout and salmon conservation:
The bill includes $6 billion for Coastal Communities and Climate Resilience, which recognizes the connection between the health of communities and coastal and marine habitats. Another $1 billion is dedicated to salmon recovery and restoration. Through programs like the Salmon SuperHwy, TU is building resilient road networks that will benefit communities, restore commercial and recreational fisheries, and help recover ESA-listed species like coho salmon.
The legislation advances reforms TU is seeking to modernize oil and gas policies on federal lands. Frivolous lease nominations have not only spurred controversy in places like the Rocky Mountain Front and Wyoming Range, but have also diverted attention from other public land priorities like restoring and managing habitat and providing increased recreation opportunities. This legislation would end non-competitive leasing, create new per-acre lease nomination fees, improve bonding requirements, and add a speculative leasing fee for non-producing leases.
Meanwhile, the bill invests $450 million into the Legacy Roads and Trails program, which provides dedicated funding for maintaining or removing roads, bridges, and trails managed by the U.S. Forest Service. These projects address adverse impacts of poorly maintained infrastructure on trout and salmon streams.
The legislation invests $27.1 billion in a suite of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Farm Bill conservation programs. More than half of the funding would go to two programs through which TU most often partners with agricultural producers: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which funds irrigation-efficiency upgrades and other stream health conservation practices; and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which supports partner-led conservation efforts. This will boost programs such as the Driftless Area Restoration Effort in the northern Midwest, through which TU has worked with producers to restore between 12 and 18 miles of stream a year for more than a decade, and added more than 500 miles of public fishing access.
Trout Unlimited is encouraging the Senate, which has already been coordinating with the House on this important legislation, to take action expeditiously.
Waters of the United States
Also this week, the EPA announced that it is proposing a new rule redefining “Waters of the United States,” which establishes protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The new proposal would replace the significantly weaker Navigable Waters Protection Act of 2019, and largely return to rules in place in 1986, with important changes that incorporate recent court decisions.
The proposal would restore coverage for many small streams, headwaters, and wetlands that are critical to a healthy and functioning water system.
“This is a welcome move that would ensure protection of small streams and wetlands that provide clean, healthy water not just for trout and salmon but for businesses, farms, and communities,” Moyer said. “This proposal is rooted in the idea that science should guide our decisions about what waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. We appreciate the EPA’s ongoing work to listen to the voices of a broad group of constituents—tribes, farmers, conservationists, foresters, local communities—with the goal of finally getting this right.”
The EPA will be conducting a 60-day public comment period on the proposal starting later this month. TU looks forward to participating in this process following a full assessment of the proposal.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional, and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities.