Fishing Conservation photo

Sportsmen conservation groups concerned about 20 million acres of the nation’s most important wetlands–and thousands of miles of threatened trout streams–have a message for President Obama: It’s time to walk the talk.

This involves the longest running run-around conservationists may ever have gotten. It involves two presidents and at least four congresses.

The story began in 2006 when the Supreme Court ruled that Congress never intended for the Clean Water Act to protect isolated and temporary wetlands. The ruling stunned fish and wildlife advocates because those types of wetlands are among the most critical for a wide range of wildlife especially waterfowl, as well as protecting streamsides that are essential to healthy trout populations.

The fix was obvious: Congress need only pass a law saying that it specifically wanted those wetlands included in the CWA.

Unfortunately, opposition became equally obvious: Developers and some powerful agricultural interests. And they were successful in getting the House to block repeated attempts to restore the protections. Meanwhile, as drought set in across much of the Midwest and prices for corn soared, millions of acres vulnerable to the drain and the plow were lost forever to fish and wildlife – and hunting and fishing.

When President Obama was elected, sportsmen thought they finally had a savior. Republican forces in the House and Senate had largely been responsible for bottling up the wetlands fix. But this Democrat promised a return to healthy environmental policies – including wetland protections. And when Congress once again failed to act, the President had his administration try to limit the damage by issuing new wetlands guidance that could cover some of these threatened habitats.

But the courage the president showed seemed to vanish as the election neared and the GOP opposition hammered him as anti- business and jobs – and his administration never released that guidance.

Conservation groups looked at the political reality and bided their time.

But now, months after the election, they are tired of waiting.

So recently Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (which includes Ducks Unlimited), the National Wildlife Federation and the Izaak Walton league issued a joint message to President Obama, pointing out that “the White House has failed so far to do its duty in approving the EPA and Corps guidelines.”

Sportsmen are urged to contact their congressional delegations to echo their call to the president to release the guidance. They should also urge those same lawmakers to pass the next Clean Water Restoration Act that comes their way. It’s time to end this endless bi-partisan runaround.