On April 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a proposed rule with the intention of clarifying protection for streams and wetlands by defining the scope of the phrase "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act (CWA)
. The rule came after two Supreme Court decisions—SWANCC
(2001) and Rapanos
(2006)—raised questions about the adequacy of existing regulations and strongly suggested that the administration take action to make the rules more clear and understandable.
As a result of the Supreme Court's admonishment the agencies took a very conservative approach to the regulations, removing protections from millions of wetland acres in the Prairie Pothole Region
that DU's science indicates should be considered waters of the United States, and putting at risk DU's investments in the region. The rule did not, however, make clear what farmers, ranchers, developers, and conservationists should expect when working in or near wetlands. In other words, while leaving vital wetlands in jeopardy, the rule did little to help bring certainty to anyone. This precipitated a vocal call for more clarity from a wide range of stakeholders, including the Farm Bureau, landowners, homebuilders, and conservation organizations. As is almost always the case, each of us wants clarity, but we all have our own views about what that clarity should look like.
This past spring, DU invited EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy or her representative to speak at our national convention
in St. Louis, and EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe gave a very informative talk describing the intentions of the proposed rule. Many convention attendees expressed appreciation for DU's approach in allowing all views to be heard, but some folks also voiced concerns about what involvement we should have in the process. I want to make sure that all our supporters know what we are doing—and not doing—regarding the proposed rule.
First, Ducks Unlimited is not in the business of writing regulations or advocating for anything other than the truth in science
and the rights of our landowner partners to pursue positive land management activities. We are proud of our reputation as a leader in science-based wetlands conservation
and of our expertise in restoring and managing wetlands to improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife
. We want to ensure that any decision based on science is made by using the best scientific evidence available. We will, therefore, be providing comments for the administrative record about the science of wetland functions
for all to see and consider.
Another important component of our conservation work is to be an advocate and watchdog for our partners in the agricultural industry. The CWA states that normal agricultural and silvicultural activities are exempt from the act's regulatory requirements. This is important, because our farming partners own more than 60 percent of all fish and wildlife habitat in this country. Our vision to have adequate wetlands to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever
is inextricably linked to the success of our farming friends and their ability to work the land, which provides waterfowl with food and shelter. We therefore want to ensure that all agricultural exemptions granted by the CWA are fully identified and protected in any decision that modifies or clarifies the regulations.
So what is DU doing regarding this issue? The answer is simple. We are seeking truth in science and protecting our ability to provide for waterfowl resources and the friends who help us accomplish that goal.
Chief Executive Officer