Trump Moves to Revise Obama's Clean Water Rule

Hunting, conservation officials believe move could have major impact on wildlife habitats

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Mark Carter

The Trump administration has begun repealing a rule that defines which wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act, a move that some hunting and outdoors organizations say could greatly impact hunters.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on Tuesday signed a proposal that would repeal the Obama administration's Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule which expanded the federal government's power to regulate major rivers and lakes as well as smaller streams and wetlands.

President Trump signed an order in February directing the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review and revise or rescind the 2015 WOTUS rule.

The changes are being hailed as good for business and agriculture, but many in the hunting community fear they will lead to a loss of wildlife habitat.

“The repeal and replacement plan is likely to roll back Clean Water Act protections for a majority of the nation’s streams and wetlands, including the headwater streams that are so important for trout and other species of fish, plus millions of acres of seasonal wetlands that store flood waters and provide essential habitat for more than half of North American migratory waterfowl and a diverse array of other birds, amphibians, and reptiles,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told the TRCP blog.

In a statement, Pruitt said the move will "return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses."

Passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act has suffered through numerous legal challenges and questions about its jurisdictional authority. With the impending rule change, the Trump administration is directing EPA and Corps officials to focus on minimizing "regulatory uncertainty."

But many in the hunting and outdoors communities believe the move will open up wildlife habitat to potential development, and environmentalists fear a regression in clean water standards. The act expanded the feds' authority to limit pollution in both major waterways and smaller wetlands.

“If the president intends to fulfill his stated goal of having the cleanest water, he should direct his administration to identify paths forward for defending and implementing the Clean Water Rule based on sound science, regulatory certainty, and the national economic benefits of clean water,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Instead, today’s action to rescind the rule puts at risk the fish and wildlife that rely on more than 20 million acres of wetlands and 60 percent of the country’s streams, while the process for ensuring the protection of these clean water resources remains unclear.”

TRCP also fears the move could impact the outdoor recreation industry including hunting on an economic level. Those businesses that depend on clean water and healthy wildlife habitats fuel an $887 billion industry and support 7.6 million jobs, 483,000 of them directly related to hunting and fishing, its research found.