House Votes to Protect Water and Wildlife

May 19, Reston, VA. In a hugh victory for clean water, the House of Representatives voted last night 222-198 to accept an amendment to the FY 07 Interior/EPA Appropriations bill that will force the U.S. EPA to stop using a policy that has put millions of acres of wetlands, streams, lakes and ponds at risk across the nation. "Congress has clearly spoken in favor of clean water for people and wildlife." said Jim Lyon, Senior Vice President for Conservation for the National Wildlife Federation. "Now the agencies need to respond by doing a better job of protecting our nation’s waters." The amendment, offered by Representative Oberstar (D-MN), Leach (R-IA) and Dingell (D-MI), would deny funding to the U.S. EPA to continue to implement an out-of-date policy directive put in place in January, 2003. The policy directive, in the U.S. EPA's own estimation, eliminated Clean Water Act protections for more than 20 million acres (or 20 %) of the wetlands left in the coterminous United States. The directive has also led EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers field staff to withhold Clean Water Act safeguards for hundreds of miles of streams and dozens of large lakes. While the policy directive was designed to interpret a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited protection for certain "isolated" waters, it has instead confused field regulators and led to the destruction or degradation of many waters that should still be protected under law. The General Accountability Office, in an investigation of the policy directive, found widely varying interpretations of the directive and surmised that "the lack of guidance from headquarters and the lengthy time frames that may be involved in receiving a decision from headquarters have discouraged Corps districts from asserting jurisdiction" using their remaining authority. Numerous hunting and angling groups supported the Clean Water Amendment. Preston Robertson, Vice President for Conservation, for the Florida Wildlife Federation called many Florida legislators over the past week to encourage their support for the amendment. "Hunters and anglers understand the importance of protecting these resources for future generations of both humans and wildlife," Robertson said. Melody Zullinger, Executive Director of the Federation of Pennsylvania Sportsmen's Clubs, also worked to convince her legislators of the importance of this effort. "We are excited that Congress has spoken with such a clear, bipartisan voice in support of America's wetlands and water resources," she said. The National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children's future. Contact: Julie Sibbing, NWF, 202-797-6832