Trout Unlimited Faults Bush Administration Decision on Wetlands Protection
Conservation group urges Administration not to use rulemaking to further weaken Clean Water Act
1/10/2003 — Arlington, VA — Trout Unlimited, the nations leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting Americas coldwater streams and rivers and the trout and salmon that inhabit them, criticized the Bush Administrations decision, announced today, to drop Clean Water Act protection for some of the nations most valuable wetlands. TU also urged the Administration not to use a proposed rulemaking, also announced today, as a vehicle to further roll back Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
The announcement by the Administration, released Friday, January 10, 2003, calls for a change in the rules the EPA and the Corps of Engineers use to determine what waters receive the protections of the Clean Water Act. The proposal is in response to a recent Supreme Court decision known as Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County, or SWANCC, that held that some isolated wetlands were outside the scope of the Act.
A key part of the announcement is its guidance to the agencies field units to stop enforcing Clean Water Act protection for some types of valuable wetlands, such as vernal pools of California, playa lakes of the midwestern states, and pocosin wetlands found in the Carolinas. A second part, initiation of a proposed rulemaking to review jurisdictional issues, could be used as an opportunity by some developers and polluting industries to pressure the Administration to remove even more waterways from Clean Water Act protection.
We are deeply concerned that some polluting industries will try to use this rulemaking as an opportunity to roll back the Clean Water Act an effort that will have devastating consequences on not only the water Americans drink but also many of the nations fragile trout and salmon populations, said Leon Szeptycki, General Counsel of Trout Unlimited.
In early December, TU wrote to EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman and the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works expressing opposition to efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act and calling any action to do so, a step backward for water quality in the United States. The letter expressed particular concerns about suggestions that small streams might not be covered by the Clean Water Act, and noted that not only are these small streams and wetlands important for fish and wildlife but they serve as water purifiers and water filters affecting overall water quality.
For now, EPA and the Corps will continue to regulate activities in small streams, but the new guidance announced today opens the door for EPA and the Corps NOT to regulate activities on small streams on a case-by-case basis. How far will they go based on this guidance without the benefit of public input?” asked Szeptycki. “Ours is not an idle concern. Hundreds of thousands of miles of streams could lose protection through such ad hoc decisions.”
SWANCC was a narrow decision, and ought to be treated accordingly, said Szeptycki. We urge the Bush Administration to reconsider its unjustified decision to drop protection for some types of wetlands, and to protect the broadest Clean Water Act jurisdiction possible under that decision. The protections of the Clean Water Act are precious to Americans, and the Administration should be fighting, in court, on the ground, and in the rulemaking, to maintain those protections, said Szeptycki.
Mission: Trout Unlimited’s mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
For more information: Leon Szeptycki: (434) 984-4919; Steve Moyer: (703) 284-9406