A new report from Trout Unlimited details the importance of small seasonal streams across America to the overall health of the country’s rivers, its fish and fishing opportunity, and it asks anglers to take action to protect these waters by contacting their members of Congress and telling lawmakers to keep the Clean Water Act intact.
Rising to the Challenge: How Anglers Can Respond to Threats to Fishing in America is a brief report and a call to action for all who fish in the United States. Trout Unlimited scientists mapped how small streams influence historic native trout and salmon habitat in 16 states. Legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate would halt a rulemaking process that would restore protections to small “intermittent and ephemeral” headwater streams under the Clean Water Act.
The proposed rule, drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, was crafted in response to two Supreme Court rulings in the 2000s that jeopardized 30 years of protections given to small headwater streams under the Clean Water Act. The Court questioned the nexus between these waters—which run low or dry at certain times of the year—and larger rivers downstream. In the aftermath of the court’s decision, dozens of interests, including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Home Builders, requested that the federal government issue clarifying rules.
Both agencies have since affirmed scientifically that there is, indeed, a substantial connection between these small waters and the navigable waterways into which they feed, and the rule clarifies that connection, as required by the court.
The draft rule is currently in the public comment phase, but if proposed legislation is approved, the entire rulemaking process would be derailed.
Rising to the Challenge further details the importance of these small waters and incorporates maps showing the vital nature of headwater streams to the overall health of rivers, as well as how they contribute to successful angling across the United States.
“Small, seasonal streams are vital spawning and rearing areas for fish, and are the sources of cold, clean water that make up larger rivers,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “All we are asking for is that the Clean Water Act protects small streams as it did so stunningly well for the first 30 years under the Clean Water Act. If Congress succeeds in stopping their protections, fishing and opportunities to fish will seriously decline from pollution and development.
“Anglers need to make their voices heard. Tell Congress to let the rulemaking process continue, and to suggest changes to the rule through the established process rather than killing it altogether for political reasons. Playing politics with clean water and fishing opportunity is not acceptable.”
The report includes comprehensive maps showing these “intermittent and ephemeral” streams for 16 states where intact headwaters and their seasonal streams contribute greatly to overall river health as well as angling opportunity. The full report, as well as individual, print-ready maps produced by TU’s Science Team with data from the United States Geological Survey are available for download by news outlets here.
“Smaller headwater and ephemeral streams are the life support system for our larger waters, providing essential cold water, nutrients and woody material,” said Jack Williams, TU’s senior scientist. “Restoring their protective status under the Clean Water Act is an elementary step toward protecting fish and fishing all across the country.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.