Restoring Clean Water Act protections critical to saving duck habitat
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 13, 2007 – A senior scientist from Ducks Unlimited testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today to support restoration of Clean Water Act protections for wetlands. The organization provided scientific support for legislative action to re-establish Clean Water Act protections that were withdrawn in the wake of two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
“The nation’s remaining wetlands are at significant risk of loss, and the waterfowl, other wildlife, and related interests that depend upon these wetlands are similarly at risk,” said Ducks Unlimited’s (DU) National Director of Conservation Operations, Dr. Scott Yaich, in his testimony. “Passage of legislation is the only apparent remedy for restoring wetland protections that are as strong as those that existed prior to 2001.”
An estimated forty to eighty million wetland acres, including some of the most critical waterfowl breeding habitats, have lost federal protection under the Clean Water Act following Supreme Court rulings, which hinged on the phrase “waters of the United States.”
Interpretations of those rulings by several federal agencies have stripped protections from certain wetlands such as prairie potholes, playa lakes and rainwater basins. These areas are critical breeding, migration and wintering habitats for waterfowl.
Dr. Yaich provided the science-based perspective that while some wetlands might appear to be geographically isolated, there are virtually no wetlands that are hydrologically and ecologically isolated. Nearly all wetlands are inherently linked to our nation’s navigable rivers, lakes and streams, and groundwater supplies.
“Although some wetlands can be geographically isolated from navigable waters, they are almost always ecologically connected,” said Yaich. “An appreciation of this fact is critical to understanding why restoration of Clean Water Act protections is essential if the nation is to fulfill the Act’s purpose.”
The legislation would continue the exemption from regulation for farming, ranching and other activities that already exist in the Clean Water Act.
Ducks Unlimited was joined in support of its testimony by several other national conservation organizations, including the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Wildlife Society, Trout Unlimited and the Wildlife Management Institute.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.
For more information, please see www.ducks.org/cwra