For nearly 50 years, the Clean Water Act has helped safeguard America’s rivers, lakes, and other interconnected landscapes. These resources provide wildlife habitat, swimming and fishing opportunities, and drinking water for millions of Americans.
But now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers have finalized a rule to remove critical protections for more than half of the country’s wetlands and hundreds of thousands of streams.
What’s at Stake
The repeal focuses on the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule (WOTUS), which defined wetlands and waterways protected nationwide under the Clean Water Act, and was developed following extensive scientific and public input.
Repealing WOTUS means removing protections from many wetlands, as well as streams that flow in response to rain or snowfall – all of which can significantly impact the health of larger water bodies by filtering out pollutants.
Denying these protections blatantly ignores the science that went into WOTUS in the first place, which showed that in order to protect our nation’s rivers and streams, smaller bodies of water and tributaries must be protected as well. Wetlands are also among our most biologically productive ecosystems, and act as both carbon sinks and floodwater absorbers – two more major reasons to strengthen, not weaken, their protections as we face the climate crisis.
We’re Fighting Back
Mass Audubon has joined the Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other partners in filing a lawsuit in federal court that challenges the Trump administration’s rollbacks. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 18 other states are also filing their own lawsuit.
Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has protected wetlands and streams across the United States. Now it’s our turn to protect it.