Prominent sportsmen’s groups today offered specific recommendations for strengthening an Environmental Protection Agency report that could play a major role in restoring Clean Water Act protections to waters and wetlands important to fish and wildlife.
The EPA report, “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence,” analyzes more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications of the best available science on wetlands and headwater streams. It will be used to guide the development of a soon-to-be-released rule clarifying the Clean Water Act’s role in safeguarding the so-called “waters of the United States.” While the report fairly documents the connectivity of wetlands and streams to downstream waters overall, room for improvement exists, said the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“America’s wetlands and headwater streams support a wide range of fish and wildlife species and play a crucial role in sportsmen’s ability to access high-quality hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Jimmy Hague, director of the TRCP Center for Water Resources. “This report and the related rulemaking have enormous consequences for the conservation of these important resources. It’s imperative that the EPA gets this right, and sportsmen are invested in assuring an outcome from which everyone – sportsmen, fish and wildlife and the public at large – stands to gain.”
The sportsmen’s groups praised the report’s recognition that “the watershed scale is the appropriate context” for assessing connectivity and that “to understand the health, behavior, and sustainability of downstream waters, the effects of small water bodies in a watershed need to be considered in aggregate.” They stressed that additional clarity was needed in assessing, for example, the connectivity of unidirectional wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Dakotas, a region that is home to as much as 70 percent of North American ducks.
“Using a watershed-based approach to aggregate the impacts of individual water bodies will lead to better resource management and improved water quality downstream,” continued Hague. “At the same time, we can and must do more to conserve key areas of habitat such as the Prairie Potholes. Wetlands in this region are being lost at an alarming rate and, with them, the sporting opportunities and economic boost that they provide.”
Hunting and fishing are major economic drivers in America, generating $200 billion each year, supporting more than 1.5 million jobs and sustaining rural communities across the nation.
“At the end of the day, sportsmen – along with the economic impact they have on businesses as diverse as motels, guides and outfitters, sporting goods stores, restaurants and gas stations – depend on clean water,” said Jim Martin, chair of the TRCP Policy Council and conservation director of the Berkley Conservation Institute. “Due to two ambiguous Supreme Court decisions, management of both wetlands and headwater streams has been in limbo for more than a decade. We look forward to the Clean Water Act rulemaking, which has the potential to restore protections to many of our most vulnerable and important waters, and we urge the EPA to rely on science to guide development of this rule, as well as other decisions about how we as a nation can best manage our waters.”
In addition to the TRCP and BCI, signatories of the sportsmen’s letter include the American Fisheries Society, the American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S., Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, Trout Unlimited, the Wildlife Management Institute and The Wildlife Society.
Read the sportsmen’s letter to the EPA.
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations
and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions
of hunting and fishing.