Trump's War on Wet­lands

Trillions - - In this Issue -

Don­ald Trump and his cor­po­rate masters seem to hate na­ture and don't mind caus­ing the ex­tinc­tion of other species.

In his lat­est move to weaken en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions na­tion­wide, Trump signed a new ex­ec­u­tive or­der that will make it eas­ier to de­stroy, pave over and pol­lute thou­sands of wet­lands across the United States, es­pe­cially in the arid, in­te­rior western states.

Wet­lands are among the most im­por­tant ecosys­tems in the coun­try, pro­vid­ing clean fresh wa­ter, flood con­trol and es­sen­tial habi­tat for birds, fish and other wildlife, in­clud­ing many en­dan­gered species.

“Trump just put mil­lions of acres of wet­lands on the chop­ping block, and our wildlife and waters will suf­fer,” said Kierán Suck­ling, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity. “This or­der is a gift to Trump’s friends who will pol­lute and de­stroy some of the last re­main­ing wet­lands in the coun­try. It’s deeply trou­bling — but not sur­pris­ing — to see Trump move so quickly to gut wet­lands pro­tec­tions.”

The anti-wet­lands or­der re­quires the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers to be­gin the le­gal process to re­scind the Obama “Clean Wa­ter Rule” and re­place it with a new rule that would only pro­tect wet­lands with nearly per­ma­nent con­nec­tions to down­stream waters.

This def­i­ni­tion of a wet­land is mo­ronic at best.

Many wet­lands would not be pro­tected un­der this re­stric­tive ap­proach, in­clud­ing those that are home to dozens of en­dan­gered species. The or­der re­quires the two agen­cies to adopt a nar­row in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Clean Wa­ter Act ad­vanced by Jus­tice Scalia in the 2006 Supreme Court Ra­panos v. United States case. Un­der Scalia’s view, only wet­lands that have a rel­a­tively per­ma­nent, sur­face con­nec­tion to a down­stream wa­ter body that is “nav­i­ga­ble in fact” can be pro­tected un­der the Clean Wa­ter Act. This view has never been adopted by the full Supreme Court, and none of the lower courts have con­cluded that Scalia’s id­i­totic test should be the sole ra­tio­nale un­der which a wet­land can be pro­tected. Jus­tice Kennedy ex­plained that the Los An­ge­les River and large ar­eas of the arid, western United States would not be pro­tected un­der Scalia’s ap­proach.

Re­duc­ing the ju­ris­dic­tional reach of the Clean Wa­ter Act will cer­tainly hurt en­dan­gered species. Ephemeral aquatic habi­tats are im­por­tant habi­tats for en­dan­gered Chir­ic­ahua leop­ard frogs, Sonora tiger sala­man­ders and crus­taceans like ver­nal pool fairy shrimp. Re­mov­ing le­gal pro­tec­tions for wet­lands that sup­port these species will mean these ar­eas could be de­graded more eas­ily with­out proper mit­i­ga­tion to pro­tect en­dan­gered species.

“Any­one who has ever spent time in a wet­land, even a wet­land in the Ari­zona desert, knows these are in­cred­i­ble places, oases teem­ing with life. Trump’s or­der casts a dark shadow over them, and the very real ef­fect will be fewer homes for the birds, fish and other an­i­mals — many of them rare and in dan­ger of van­ish­ing — that we all hold dear,” Suck­ling said.

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