WASHINGTON – As negotiations for fiscal year 2012 budgets continue in the U.S. House of Representatives, sportsmen-conservationists are criticizing a measure that would defund the administration’s work on Clean Water Act guidance that is crucial to sustaining wetlands and waterways, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced Thursday.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development met this morning to deliberate and mark up the FY 2012 budget for the Army Corps of Engineers and other water development agencies, including the measure that would strip protections for clean water and habitat. “None of the funds made available by this Act or any subsequent Act making appropriations for Energy and Water Development may be used by the Corps of Engineers to develop, adopt, implement, administer or enforce a change or supplement to the rule … or guidance documents … pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act,” it reads.
“While sportsmen understand the need for fiscal conservatism, this rash decision by Congress leaves vulnerable waters that provide critical habitat to fish and wildlife, flood control, drinking water and a range of other benefits,” said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “We urge House appropriators to reconsider this budgetary measure, which takes several steps backward in our efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s streams and wetlands.”
The TRCP and its partners welcomed proposed guidance issued by the administration in April that would more clearly define which U.S. waters are subject to Clean Water Act protections, a move that would begin restoring long-standing protections to many of the nation’s wetlands, streams, lakes and headwaters that have remained threatened in the wake of two ambiguous Supreme Court decisions and subsequent agency guidance.
“Americans support clean water, and we recognize that responsibly managing our headwaters and wetlands is essential to that goal,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, wetlands and water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the TRCP Wetlands and Clean Water Working Group. “Conserving drinking water, protecting communities from flooding and sustaining fish and wildlife habitat and local economies are objectives of the administration’s Clean Water Act guidance, and we are deeply disappointed that Congress would undertake any actions that undermine these goals.”
“It’s ironic that this provision would bar the Corps from doing the one thing that almost everyone agrees should happen – revising its regulations to more clearly define ‘waters of the United States,'” said Scott Kovarovics, conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America and working group member. “If this provision became law, it would lock in the status quo that threatens drinking water for 117 million Americans and the most productive duck habitat in the country.”
The TRCP and its partners on the TRCP’s Wetlands and Clean Water Working Group, including Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, have been promoting restoration of protections for the nation’s wetlands and clean waters. Recent budget deliberations have repeatedly threatened the sportsmen’s efforts to conserve these resources.
“Hunters and anglers are strongly opposed to this policy rider, and our vigorous opposition helped defeat a similarly ill-conceived rider when the House passed the FY 11 Continuing Resolution, or HR 1, earlier this year,” said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited and WCWWG co-chair. “Sportsmen know the Clean Water Act is a vital safety net for fish and wildlife resources that is being partially repaired by the Corps-EPA guidance. The guidance is reasonable, science-based, consistent with the Clean Water Act and beneficial to fish, wildlife and the public; therefore, sportsmen will do everything in our power to stop the rider.”
The proposed Clean Water Act guidance would begin restoring protections for intermittent streams that sustain critical fisheries and feed the public drinking water systems for more than 117 million Americans and at least 20 million acres of the nation’s wetlands, particularly prairie potholes and wetlands essential to waterfowl. The guidance is available for public comment and review until July 1.