Headwater Streams, Wetlands Under Assault by House Proposals

BHA Urges Lawmakers to Stand up for Clean Water

As House meets today to consider ‘waters of the U.S.’ rule, newly introduced legislation, spending bills would block rule’s finalization
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Washington, DC -(Ammoland.com)- A landmark rule that would restore clarity to the federal Clean Water Act, safeguarding key U.S. waterways and wetlands and the fish and wildlife that depend on them, is under assault by members of the House of Representatives, announced Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which urges the House to reject these latest proposals that would undermine the measure’s finalization.

A House subcommittee hearing this afternoon to consider the “waters of the U.S.” rule follows yesterday’s introduction by Reps. Bob Gibbs and Bill Shuster of legislation that would force the rule’s withdrawal. In a separate but related development, a spending bill released by House members this morning would officially block the rule’s finalization.

“Clean water is not only important to our families and communities; it is the lifeblood of wetlands critical to migratory waterfowl and headwaters streams key to coldwater fisheries,” said BHA Executive Director Land Tawney. “These waters recharge our aquifers, filter pollution, reduce flooding and provide high quality habitat essential to fish and wildlife. We strongly urge members of the House to reject measures that would undermine their responsible management and conservation.”

Proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, the waters of the U.S. rule would resolve confusion over the scope of the federal Clean Water Act caused by two recent Supreme Court decisions. Despite popular support of the rule, including a united effort by national hunting and angling groups, pressure by industry and agricultural sectors has resulted in ongoing attacks by members of Congress.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which comprises a diverse cross-section of North American sportsmen and public lands enthusiasts, condemned these attacks.

“As currently framed, the clean water rule explicitly defines exemptions that address water features important to farming, forestry, mining and other industries,” Tawney continued, “while also restoring longstanding Clean Water Act protections to waters important to fish and wildlife, sportsmen and our nation’s supply of drinkable water. Yet Representative Gibbs and Representative Shuster remain determined to put our clean water in danger.”

“This rule offers much-needed clarification on what bodies of water are covered under the Clean Water Act,” said Mark Richards, BHA Alaska chapter board member. “This will streamline development that was previously plagued by inconsistent interpretations while also providing consistent protection to valuable wetlands and streams. Our fish and wildlife depend upon healthy habitat and clean water. So do people. If we can build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline under the original definitions of the CWA, then we still can develop our Alaska lands responsibly under this new rule.”

“From the wetlands of the prairie pothole region to the Boundary Waters, Minnesota is known for its great aquatic resources, which provide bountiful hunting and fishing opportunities, from waterfowl to abundant walleye, northern pike, bass, trout, salmon and panfish,” said Erik Jensen, BHA Minnesota chapter co-chair. “The Minnesota chapter of BHA supports the new rule, as it protects these sporting opportunities while providing the clear guidance needed to farmers, developers and federal agencies and rectifying the confusing situation created by Supreme Court decisions in the 2000s.”

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is set to vote on the Gibbs/Shuster bill tomorrow. Also tomorrow, a House subcommittee will consider the FY 2016 budget bill.

Meanwhile, the rule itself has been submitted to the White House for final review.

BHA, along with more than 200 sportsmen’s organizations, has joined 1 million-plus Americans who have submitted public comments in favor of advancing the waters of the U.S. rule.

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