Friends, this post is a Plea.
The US Army and EPA want to strip away critical protections for wetlands and streams. We must show our support to save these critical ecosystems.
The ask: Take 5 minutes to submit a comment to the EPA. The public comment period ends April 15.
The proposal by the Army and EPA would jeopardize clean water, flood control, biodiversity, climate, the ecological integrity of our landscapes, and critical habitat for countless species, including threatened and endangered amphibians, turtles and plant species. The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal until April 15. Your comment is needed!
WHAT TO DO:
Submit a comment to the EPA. You can use the talking points below if you like.
2. Add your comments in the white box. Add your name and any titles at the end of your comments (or leave anonymous if you prefer). Consider adding your city or town and state.
3. Click the “Continue” button below the box.
4. Preview your comment, edit if needed, and click “Submit Comment.”
KEY TALKING POINTS: TELL THE EPA:
🌎 You oppose the revised definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
🌎 To uphold the 2015 Rule that provides Federal protection for “isolated” wetlands, intermittent streams and other “nonnaviagable” waters.
🌎 The revised definition would remove protections for wetlands and streams that provide: critical water quality functions, flood control, habitat for threatened and endangered species, pollution control, recreational opportunities, carbon storage, and natural beauty. These so-called “isolated” wetlands and streams are CONNECTED TO the food webs, nutrient and water cycles that all life depends on, and they must remain protected.
🌎 We must value the ecological integrity of our Nation’s diverse wetlands and aquatic ecosystems and protect this National natural heritage.
For more information on this issue, keep reading below.
A brief history of the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 was put in place to help stop the destruction of wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams in the United States and to improve water treatment and regulate water pollution. It’s objective was “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” The U.S. had already lost most of its wetlands, and municipalities and private companies were filling and polluting waterbodies with toxic waste, sewage and pavement. Drinking water and food sources were impaired, and aquatic habitats were being ravaged. Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act, but the senate, in a remarkable instance of bipartisan agreement, defied him and voted to override his veto. Democratic senator Edmund Muskie of Maine said it well: “Can we afford clean water? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make life possible on this planet? Can we afford life itself?”
The original Clean Water Act focused on “navigable” waterways (i.e., large rivers and streams) and wetlands that were immediately adjacent or connected by surface water to those waterways. These navigable waterways and connected wetlands were defined as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and were granted some protections. However, the Act did not protect inland wetlands fed by ground water or rain only, as well as seasonal wetlands and streams. After court cases arguing for the ecological and global importance of “isolated” wetlands and other waters not protected as WOTUS, the Clean Water Rule was added in 2015. This rule provides protection for additional wetlands and streams, although it leaves out aquatic ecosystems that are more than 1500 feet away from a jurisdictional waterway.
Now, the EPA and Department of the Army propose a “Revised Definition of Waters of the United States.” This proposal would remove Federal protection for all wetlands and streams that do not have a “direct hydrologic surface connection to other ‘‘waters of the United States.” This means that bogs, woodland ponds, swamps, vernal pools, intermittent streams and many more ecosystems would have no protections. The proposal claims that these ecosystems are too burdensome to regulate, and that it will be “easier” to implement a rule that doesn’t include the complexities of the natural world. They are ignoring the massive amounts of scientific data and natural wisdom and knowledge about the importance of these ecosystems. Many conservation and recreation organizations, as well as scientific and ecological societies and leaders like the National Geographic Society, oppose this proposed rule.
This short video from the Southern Environmental Law Center explains the Clean Water Act and the threats the proposed rule change presents.
Here are some of the important roles wetlands and other waterbodies play. So-called “isolated” wetlands do some of these things especially well:
🐸 Filter and transform pollutants into plant biomass and less-toxic compounds
🐸 Provide flood protection by holding water on the landscape
🐸 Recharge groundwater and help prevent droughts
🐸 Support high levels of biodiversity, including habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species (click here for a pdf with great detail on this subject)
🐸 Provide clean drinking water and food for humans and other animals
🐸 Provide the only habitat for many invertebrate, amphibian and turtle species.
🐸 Remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it, helping reduce the threat of climate change
🐸 Provide important links in the food webs that support the entire web of life
🐸 Provide recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting and connection with our natural heritage
The most recent National Rivers, Streams and Wetlands assessments by the EPA itself indicate that “46% of our nation’s rivers and streams are in poor biological condition” and that more than 50% of wetlands are in poor or only fair condition. It is time to IMPROVE protections for these ecosystems, not take them away.