Got (Clean) Water?
By Aaron Kindle
“ I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; Its roar shook both the earth and me.” — Wallace Stegner
Sportsmen and women learned recently that, yet again, our sporting heritage is under attack. In another cut to the heart of our traditions, the Trump administration announced it will roll back protections for headwaters 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.
These invaluable waterways support our fishing and waterfowl hunting, and the several hundred thousand jobs these activities sustain. That’s not to mention the drinking water these headwaters provide to 1 of every 3 Americans.
The Executive Summary of the Rule itself says all that needs to be said regarding the value of these critical waterways: “Peer-reviewed science and practical experience demonstrate that upstream waters, including headwaters and wetlands, significantly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters by playing a crucial role in controlling sediment, filtering pollutants, reducing flooding, providing habitat for fish and other aquatic wildlife, and many other vital chemical, physical, and biological processes.”
Reasonable protection of these waters is reasonable to expect. It is common sense to keep these waters and wetlands healthy and viable. They not only lubricate our recreational pursuits but also sustain and protect our nation’s drinking water.
As our leaders decide to pick away at the at literal lifeblood of our country they too pick away at our souls, degrade our health, and erode our traditions.
We are getting that helpless feeling, that grasping, gnawing feeling pushing us to summon some last ditch way to rescue something seemingly already lost. Can we somehow send a lifeboat to rescue these waters we hold so dear?
Our main request is to restore protection for these vital streams and wetlands. We also asked the administration to carry out the will of 83% of the sporting public who believe these streams and wetlands should indeed be protected under the Clean Water Act. And, finally to keep our country moving forward instead of rolling back the clock on widely accepted practices that protect our most vital resource.
Please, Trump Administration, help us carry on our sporting traditions. Do right by us and the American people. Assure us that these vital waters, where we catch our cherished trout and harvest the waterfowl we have fought so hard to maintain, will be clean and healthy now and forever.
Aaron Kindle is a lifelong westerner, originally from Wyoming, who possesses a deep appreciation for the west, its people and its wild country. He comes to National Wildlife Federation from Trout Unlimited where he worked on public lands issues. Kindle is an avid hunter, angler, boater and all around outdoor enthusiast. He lives with his wife and two children in Salida, CO.
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