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US fishing groups join fight for clean water protections


A group of fishing and outdoor organisations in the US have filed a legal brief in the Supreme Court supporting stronger clean water protections.

The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) and Trout Unlimited are among seven bodies to file an amicus* brief in a pivotal Clean Water Act case being heard in October.

The ruling in the case Sackett vs. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to be a test for determining when wetlands are ‘Waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.

The groups, which represent millions of national park users, anglers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, argue that wetlands with a significant connection to traditional navigable waters must be included in Clean Water Act protections.

The consortium also includes the National Parks Conservation Association, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Izaak Walton League, the National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

It argues that the narrow interpretation proposed by the Sackett’s would remove such protections for the majority of wetlands in the US and that state protections would not make up for the loss of federal safeguards.

It also maintains that narrowing the coverage of the act would have devastating effects on national parks, wetlands, rivers and streams and fish and wildlife habitats, impacting recreational opportunities for millions of people.

“Protection of wetlands and waterways under the Clean Water Act is critical not just for fish and wildlife, but also for the businesses, farms and communities that depend on healthy water,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited.

“America’s millions of hunters and anglers know that dropping Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and waters is exactly the wrong idea. We support efforts by the EPA to develop a fair Waters of the U.S. definition, rooted in science and reflecting input from a broad array of voices, that restores and protects America’s rivers, streams and wetlands.”

The loss of protections would have serious economic consequences for an industry that supports $788 billion in consumer spending and over five million jobs. More than 50 million Americans fished in 2019 and fishing and hunting generated $200 billion for the economy.

*An amicus brief is a legal brief filed in appellate courts by an individual or organisation who is not party to a legal case but who is permitted to offer information, expertise or insight that has a bearing on the case.

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