The Clean Water Act Turns 40

Groups celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the historic results this keystone legislation has achieved

10-17-2012 // Jaclyn McDougal

Forty years ago, in a show of bipartisan support, Congress passed the Clean Water Act of 1972. Hunters and anglers have supported strong Clean Water Act protections, understanding that clean water and healthy wetlands and streams are essential to healthy fish and wildlife. This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the historic results this keystone legislation has achieved: healthier water to drink; cleaner streams, rivers, and lakes in which to swim, fish, and play; and dramatically lower rates of natural wetland loss.

Sea Otter Floating

“On October 18, we mark the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act,” said Congressman JohnDingell, who represents the 15th district of Michigan. “My home state of Michigan is blessed with a vast and marvelous natural resource—the Great Lakes—and I am proud to have played an integral role in passing this landmark legislation. As a steadfast conservationist and outdoorsman, I firmly believe that we owe it to future generations to restore and protect national treasures like the Great Lakes and the waterways we recreate in. As my dear Dad taught me, we borrow the resources of today from our citizens of tomorrow.”

A September 2012 poll of hunters and anglers found that regardless of political affiliation, 79% of hunters and anglers favor restoring Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and waterways, including small creeks and streams. Recent polls in Colorado, Ohio, and Wisconsin found similar results on this issue. In this fractious election year, it is worth noting that poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans support strong federal Clean Water Act protections in order to ensure clean water for all.

The Clean Water Act has cleaned up millions of miles of streams, small and large. Families, communities, farmers, and businesses depend on clean, healthy waters for their health, jobs, and prosperity. 

“The Clean Water Act is essential to keeping our drinking water safe; providing millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat across the country; ensuring abundant clean water for irrigating crops; and bolstering the robust fishery, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries,” stated Jan Goldman-Carter, National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager, Wetlands and Water Resources. “Clean water is a public right and fundamental in protecting our livelihoods, wildlife, communities, and economy.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported that tens of millions of Americans spend $145 billion annually on hunting, angling, and wildlife watching. These dollars are spent in local restaurants, on guides and outfitters, and on everything from shotguns to fishing rods and boats and decoys,” said Scott Kovarovics, acting executive director of Izaak Walton League of America. “Millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, as well as our hunting and angling traditions, all benefit from Clean Water Act protections for streams, lakes and wetlands.”

“America’s anglers have seen first hand that the Clean Water Act has been a tremendous boon for their sporting tradition,” said Steve Moyer, Vice President of Trout Unlimited. “From the most dedicated anglers to those who might only fish once per year, sportsmen everywhere can thank clean water protections for more miles of fishable water and higher quality fishing trips.”

“The aims of the Clean Water Act—to ensure drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters across the country—have largely not been realized. With millions of acres of wetlands and headwaters lost and still more threatened, it is time to recommit ourselves to the original goals of the legislation, which are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago,” said Steve Kline, director of Center for Agriculture and Private Lands at Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. As the Clean Water Act turns 40, America must get back on the path to clean, healthy waters and wetlands. The administration must follow through on its comprehensive efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to wetlands, lakes, and streams in a science-based manner.

For details about the proposed guidance, read “The Clean Water Act Guidance” fact sheet.

Related Resources
  • Take Action
    Protect River Otters From Polluters

    Send a message to your members of Congress, President Obama and his agency leaders, supporting the Obama Administration’s recent actions to further restore Clean Water Act protections.

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