One year ago, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took an incredibly positive step to restore Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and others waters by finalizing what has come to be known as the Clean Water Rule. I was proud to be in the audience when Corps and EPA leadership signed the rule – proud on behalf of the League members and leaders who had been fighting to restore these protections since 2001. Your persistence, your hard work, and your commitment paid off that day.
Although getting the rule across the goal line was a major achievement, the game’s not over yet. The fight to protect our streams and wetlands, drinking water supplies for 117 million Americans, and the $200 billion hunting and angling economy continues. There are attacks on all sides, from a blizzard of lawsuits in courts across the country to repeated efforts in Congress to block or overturn the protections. While the protections are in legal limbo, streams flowing through our communities and wetlands nationwide remain vulnerable to pollution or being drained and filled.
These challenges might discourage some people who’d opt to walk away rather than keep fighting. But that only plays into the hands of the opponents. And that’s not in our DNA! The League’s been fighting to protect America’s water resources since 1922 – and we never gave up. We never gave up throughout a decades-long effort to enact national water pollution legislation. We never wavered in our determination to conserve wetlands and to fight plans to drain millions of acres across vast areas of the country.
We’re going to keep fighting. Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to testify in support of the Clean Water Rule at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing. (You can read my testimony on our national water web page). Most of the witnesses and Senators attending the hearing opposed the rule and agreed among themselves – more than once – that Congress should block the protections. Even with the deck stacked against us, the League didn’t shrink from advocating for the rule and for protecting waters that are essential to hunting and angling, public health, and the outdoor recreation economy.
And we’re not alone in this fight. At the hearing yesterday, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Ben Cardin (MD) spoke eloquently and forcefully in support of the rule and the fundamental value of the Clean Water Act. Conservation, hunting and angling groups, and businesses and industries – from fly rod makers to brewers – continue to advocate for the rule and protecting clean water and healthy wetlands.
If science and common sense were all that mattered, I wouldn’t be writing this today. Instead, it’s late in the 4th quarter and the game is tied. And that’s positive in the scheme of things. The League and our members have been here many times before, and we’ve always stood with “fists doubled.” If the fight to protect our waters takes another year or two (or five), the League will be here with the same grit and determination that’s been our hallmark for nearly 100 years.