There’s been little for sportsmen to thank Congress for lately, what with our public servants taking a $615 million bite out of conservation programs just last week in the name–falsely–of cutting the nation’s deficit.
So news that Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) want to permanently remove protection from 20 million acres of critical wetlands is even more egregious. This is the latest attempt to prevent Congress from addressing Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that said the original Clean Water Act was not meant to protect “isolated and temporary wetlands.” Unfortunately for sportsmen, it meant one-fifth of the nation’s wetlands and as many as 2,000,000 miles of small streams would now be open to draining and development. These just happen to be among the most critical to waterfowl, including the prairie pothole region where most North American ducks are raised.
Sportsmen immediately supported bills to reinstate those protections under the Clean Water Restoration Act, but an avalanche of lobbying from developers and some agricultural businesses prevented passage.
The day seemed to be saved earlier this year when the Obama Administration provided a patch by issuing a new guidance to federal agencies on which wetlands could be protected. But opponents–primarily agribusinesses and land developers–fought back. They’ve been shouting to conservatives that “liberals” are attempting to “expand” protections of the Clean Water Act, when all conservationists are attempting to do is restore what had been in place for 30 years.
The Barrasso-Heller offering sent shock waves across the sportsmen’s conservation community last week, because the wetlands left unprotected are vital to waterfowl, as well as fish and innumerable other wildlife.
“Clean water is the foundation on which enjoyable and productive hunting and angling trips are built,” said Steve Kline of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which includes almost every sportsman’s conservation organization.
“We can create jobs without draining wetlands and polluting streams…Now we must act as advocates for the conservation of our nation’s waters and wetlands until these irreplaceable resources are appropriately managed and conserved.”
Sportsmen can find out how to contact their congressional delegation at www.contactingthecongress.org.