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Federal Government Rolls Back Protections for Wetlands and Water Supply

New EPA Rule Threatens Diminishing Wildlife Habitats

Contact: Sean Cooley, Communications Manager, 850-999-1030 or
Twitter: @AudubonFL

MIAMI – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rescinded the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule. The current rule protects waterways and wetlands while providing clarification to the Clean Water Act. This decision to repeal the WOTUS Rule will threaten Florida’s progress to preserve diminishing wetlands, wildlife, and water quality and supply. Nearly a million acres of wetlands were destroyed in the United States between 1996 and 2010, despite federal and state mandates for “no net loss of wetlands.”
“We all live downstream, and every stream starts somewhere,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “It’s important that we protect the sources of our water as well as our waterways. The WOTUS Rule is an essential tool to protect America’s water resources.”
Scientists at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary have shown that current protections are not sufficient, and Florida continues to experience significant loss of wetland habitats. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wetland losses accelerated in the mid-2000’s in coastal watersheds of the contiguous U.S. after two U.S. Supreme Court cases created confusion about what wetlands were actually protected under the Clean Water Act. The 2015 WOTUS Rule that is being repealed today was developed in response to the confusion caused by the courts.
“Wetlands are ecological treasures that provide critical environmental values,” said Audubon Florida’s Western Everglades Research Center Director Dr. Shawn Clem. “Wetlands clean and recharge drinking water supplies, provide flood protection, offer habitat to rare wildlife, create ecotourism, keep estuaries healthy, and give us great places to fish and play. Once wetlands are destroyed, many of these values are lost forever.”
Federal officials must keep their promise to protect water and watersheds as national resources. Americans depend on clean, reliable water to survive. The economy, national security, and well-being of all Americans depend on adequate protections for the country’s water resources. Repealing the WOTUS Rule ignores these priorities and instead means that fewer wetlands, streams, and other waters will be protected. The EPA must recommit to safeguarding our nation’s water supply.

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