20080805_fp_logoWASHINGTON – In a resounding vote for conservation of the nation’s natural resources, more than 90,000 Americans have signed a petition supporting restoration of federal protections for wetlands and clean water and affirming the crucial role wetland ecosystems play in our lives. The We Are Wetlands petition, launched by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, far exceeded its goal of 80,000 names – one for each acre of natural wetlands that our country loses each year – and calls for a legislative fix that restores the integrity of the Clean Water Act.

“American sportsmen have a keen appreciation of the importance of wetlands to our outdoor traditions, our fish and wildlife populations and our lives,” said Tom Franklin, TRCP director of policy and government relations, “and so hunters and anglers gladly lead the charge in urging our government to act promptly and decisively in ensuring that these invaluable ecosystems receive sufficient protection under federal law.”

Two recent Supreme Court decisions along with subsequent federal agency guidance have dramatically weakened the Clean Water Act, the federal law that protects our nation’s water quality. The TRCP Working Group on Wetlands, which includes representatives from TRCP partner groups the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, has spoken loudly in support of legislation that restores the law’s original scope.

“More than 90,000 Americans have voiced their clear support for protecting wetlands and our drinking water,” said Scott Kovarovics, conservation director with the Izaak Walton League. “Now, it’s up to the U.S. House of Representatives to respond with legislation that restores the Clean Water Act.”

In 2009, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed an amended version of the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787). This legislation would restore federal clean water and wetlands protections to levels originally intended in the Clean Water Act, clarify agency jurisdiction on wetlands protections, and slow the trend of wetland loss. The TRCP and members of the Working Group on Wetlands currently are pressing the House of Representatives to advance legislation and work with the Senate to pass a bill for the president’s approval.

“Representative James Oberstar, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee overseeing this issue, has decried the threats to America’s waters due to weakening of the Clean Water Act and led past efforts to pass  the Clean Water Restoration Act,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, wetlands and water resources counsel with the National Wildlife Federation. “Sportsmen urge Congressman Oberstar to take the lead in ensuring speedy passage of this crucial legislation in 2010.”

More than half of the estimated 221 million acres of wetlands originally existent in the coterminous United States have been lost. In 1972, the passage of the Clean Water Act played an important role in stemming the rate of loss. Even with the law’s protection, however, wetlands most important to fish and wildlife continue to decrease by 80,000 acres per year.

“As a result of legal confusion, Clean Water Act protection of some 20 million acres of our country’s wetlands and millions of miles of waterways – including small, seasonal streams with immense biological value as fish habitat –  has been jeopardized,” said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited vice president of government affairs. “The Clean Water Restoration Act would restore the original scope of the Clean Water Act and safeguard these indispensable resources.”

“America’s wetlands control floods and erosion, hold and cleanse water, and give us places to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors,” concluded Franklin. “Furthermore, many plant, fish and wildlife species depend on wetlands for survival. More than 90,000 Americans have spoken: Wetlands rank among the most productive and threatened habitats in the world. We are standing up for wetlands.”

Learn more about We Are Wetlands.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.