Ducks Unlimited provides advice to Congress on wetland protection

Science supports federal role in saving duck habitat

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 19, 2007 – A senior scientist from Ducks Unlimited testified on Capitol Hill today to promote reinstatement of original Clean Water Act protections for wetlands.  The organization provided scientific support for congressional action to re-establish Clean Water Act protections lost as a result 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 to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Passage of legislation is the only apparent remedy for restoring wetland protections that are at least 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.”

Following those rulings, the Clean Water Act could no longer protect many wetlands that were not “navigable.” Subsequent interpretations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew federal protection from essentially all of the nation’s “geographically isolated” wetlands, including the prairie potholes, playa lakes, and rainwater basins that are among the most important wetlands to waterfowl and other wildlife.

Dr. Yaich provided the science-based perspective that 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 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.”

In order to restore protection removed by the Court’s decisions and subsequent agency action, Chairman Jim Oberstar (MN) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, joined by a bi-partisan group of colleagues, introduced the Clean Water Restoration Act (H.R. 2421).  Ducks Unlimited supports the passage of this legislation.

Congressman Oberstar said the bill “is designed to restore the authority of the Clean Water Act so it has the same effect it had prior to the Supreme Court’s rulings.”

The legislation states that the exemptions for normal farming, ranching, and other activities already in the Clean Water Act would remain in place and not be affected by this legislation.

Ducks Unlimited was joined in support of its testimony by four national conservation organizations, including Pheasants Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wildlife Management Institute and The Wildlife Society.

Contact: Laura Houseal
(901) 758-3764

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization.  In its 70-year history, DU working in partnership has conserved over 12 million acres. 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.