Conservation Report: Some Wetlands Survive--For Now

Word from Washington yesterday indicates the omnibus spending bill will arrive on President Obama's desk without policy riders attached by the House GOP and favored by some Senate Republicans that would weaken environmental protections for wetlands and other fish and wildlife habitat.

The Congressional Quarterly reported "Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the language included in the spending bill (HR 2354) that passed the House in July will not be part of the final omnibus measure under negotiation."

Republican lawmakers have opposed a new wetlands guidance from the Obama Administration that would restore protection to some of the 20 million wetlands left open to development by Supreme Court decisions in 2002 and 2006. Wildlife officials say the wetlands affected--called isolated and temporary or "intermittent"--are essential to waterfowl nesting grounds on the prairies and riparian habitat in the west, responsible for 50 percent of the wild trout populations and essential to big game herds.

While the new guidance will help, it doesn't restore coverage to most of the pothole country. Dale Hall, Ducks Unlimited CEO, said "we're still exposed to tremendous destruction" of critical waterfowl breeding habitat by the court rulings. He said the only way to protect those areas is for Congress to pass the long-delayed Clean Water Restoration Act, which specifically lists those habitats.