Delta News

Draft Proposal on CWA Wetland Protection Would be Disastrous for Duck Production

BISMARCK, ND--"If ever sportsmen wanted their voices to be heard, now's the time to speak out," says Rob Olson, director of US operations for Delta Waterfowl.

Olson is referring to the Bush administration's draft proposal to exclude seasonal and temporary wetlands from protection under the Clean Water Act, which was leaked last week to the Los Angeles Times.

"This is the most serious threat to ducks and duck hunters in a long time," says Olson. "The administration's draft proposal would strip seasonal and temporary wetlands of protection under the Clean Water Act, and that would be devastating for duck production. Every year would be like a drought on the prairies, and no one has to tell duck hunters what happens when we have a drought."

Olson's comments mirror the reaction from conservation leaders across the country. Julie Sibbing of the National Wildlife Federation said the decision, "...has the potential to just devastate waterfowl populations by taking away habitat both on the breeding grounds as well as in wintering areas."

Ron Reynolds of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Bismarck office said, "The prairie pothole region would lose 40 percent of its carrying capacity for nesting ducks. If the American people allow this to happen, they must not care about ducks."

Bob Marshall, outdoor writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote that the proposal is, "...worse for waterfowl and duck hunters than drought, predators and anti-hunting groups combined."

The country's wetlands came under Clean Water Act protection in 1972, but those protections were erased in 2001 when the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress never intended to protect isolated and non-navigable waters. Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) responded by introducing the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act, which would have clarified Congress' original intent, but that bill has been tied up in committee and has little hope of coming to a vote.

The Corps of Engineers issues permits to drain wetlands, and in an effort to provide guidance for the Corps the administration turned to the rulemaking process. The draft rule was leaked to the LA Times last week was even worse than conservationists had originally feared.

According to the draft, only wetlands that "provide regular and continuous flow of surface waters" qualify for CWA protection.

"The proposal eliminates protection for the seasonal and temporary wetlands that are the engine that drives duck production," says Olson. "According to some modeling done by the Fish and Wildlife Service, if we lose our seasonal and temporary wetlands, duck hunters could be looking at closed or severely restricted seasons down the road.

"Sportsmen demonstrated their clout in the last presidential election when they threw their support behind successful pro-gun candidates," says Olson. "The right to keep and bear arms is important, but maintaining the habitat necessary to raise ducks and other wildlife is critical too. I hope sportsmen will contact their Congressional delegations and urge them to fight for our wetlands and waterways.

"The rulemaking process doesn't require Congressional approval," says Olson, "but hopefully if enough sportsmen make their feelings known, lawmakers will deliver the message to the White House."

For more information, contact John Devney at 1-888-987-3695.