Wetland forests in the US are our communities’ best protection from the worst impacts of climate change like increased flooding, drought, and degradation of our water quality. But the Trump Administration wants to eliminate protections for wetland forests, streams, and other wetland areas.
Under this new proposed rule, many wetland forests like floodplain forests and bottomland hardwoods would no longer be protected from destruction. The new rule would mean that any wetland forest with a road, levee, or berm that disrupts its connection to other waterways would no longer be protected. Over half of the nation’s wetlands would be vulnerable to destruction and pollution if the Trump Administration has its way. Read on to find out more about the legislation in question: the Clean Water Act.
What Is The Clean Water Act?
The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, is one of the most influential pieces of environmental legislation in the United States. The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law controlling and preventing water pollution. It recognizes the power and responsibility of state governments in preventing pollution while also giving the federal government authority to regulate “point” pollution, like pollution from sewage treatment and industrial facilities. Perhaps most importantly, the Clean Water Act protects wetlands in the US that would otherwise be left vulnerable to pollution and destruction.
Unfortunately, some of the language in the Clean Water Act has been somewhat unclear. In particular, the scope of the nation’s waters has been murky at times and subject to several lawsuits. Two court cases in particular, SWANCC vs. US ACE and Rapanos vs. US, demonstrated the need to clarify which wetlands fall under the Clean Water Act’s purview.
Obama’s Environmental Legacy: The Clean Water Rule
In 2015, the Obama Administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps. of Engineers (ACE) attempted to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act by proposing the “Clean Water Rule” that clarifies which wetlands are subject to the federal legislation and which are not. This rule was crafted by both the EPA and ACE as they “conducted peer-reviewed hydrological studies, interagency reviews, and economic analyses before publishing a formal proposed rule on April 21, 2014.”
The Clean Water Rule has been demonized by industrial polluters, big business, big agriculture, and industrial forestry since its inception. These industries want to have the right to pollute, destroy, and develop wetlands when it is convenient for them, regardless of the impacts that they will have on surrounding communities.
The Latest Attack On Our Wetlands
After President Trump came into office, Scott Pruitt and the EPA suspended the implementation of the Clean Water Rule in January 2018. However, it was reinstated in August of 2018 when a federal district court judge decided that the Trump Administration had overstepped its bounds by not taking public comment before acting. As a result, the Clean Water Rule is the law of the land — but the Trump Administration wants to change that.
As you know, wetland forests in the US are our communities’ best protection from the worst impacts of climate change like increased flooding, drought, and degradation of our water quality. The Trump Administration is now attempting to eliminate Clean Water Act protections for wetland forests, streams, and other wetland areas by “revising” the Clean Water Rule. The proposal limits Clean Water Act protections to wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to larger lakes, streams, or rivers. In addition, it removes federal protections for rain and snow dependent streams. This Trump Administration would mean, by the EPA’s own estimates, that over half of the nation’s currently protected wetlands will become vulnerable once again.
Potential Impacts & What You Can Do
Under this new rule, many wetland forests like floodplain forests and bottomland hardwoods would no longer be protected from destruction. The new rule would mean that any wetland forest with a road, levee, or berm that disrupts its connection to other waterways would no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act. Additionally, scientists believe that this rule revision would have significant impacts on water resources (like clean drinking water) in the US.
All told, the Trump Administration’s dangerous proposal would remove safeguards for more than half of America’s wetlands, leaving them open to destruction from logging, development, and pollution. Drinking water and flood protection for millions of Americans would be at risk. We will not let that happen.
We only have a short window to show our support for the nation’s wetland forests. Please, speak up for our wetland forests by submitting your public comments to the US EPA.