Home | Features | News | Small is Important

Small is Important

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
TU - Rising to the Challenge TU - Rising to the Challenge

A new Trout Unlimited report documents importance of small streams to clean water and fishing in America.







Source: Trout Unlimited / Angling Trade

A new report from Trout Unlimited details the importance of small seasonal streams across America to the overall health of the country’s rivers, its fish and fishing opportunity, and it asks anglers to take action to protect these waters by contacting their members of Congress and telling lawmakers to keep the Clean Water Act intact.

Rising to the Challenge: How Anglers Can Respond to Threats to Fishing in America is available to view HERE and is a brief report and a call to action for all who fish in the United States. Trout Unlimited scientists mapped how small streams influence historic native trout and salmon habitat in 16 states. Legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate would halt a rulemaking process that would restore protections to small “intermittent and ephemeral” headwater streams under the Clean Water Act.

The proposed rule, drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, was crafted in response to two Supreme Court rulings in the 2000s that jeopardized 30 years of protections given to small headwater streams under the Clean Water Act. The Court questioned the nexus between these waters—which run low or dry at certain times of the year—and larger rivers downstream. In the aftermath of the court’s decision, dozens of interests, including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Home Builders, requested that the federal government issue clarifying rules.

Both agencies have since affirmed scientifically that there is, indeed, a substantial connection between these small waters and the navigable waterways into which they feed, and the rule clarifies that connection, as required by the court.

The draft rule is currently in the public comment phase, but if proposed legislation is approved, the entire rulemaking process would be derailed.

Rising to the Challenge further details the importance of these small waters and incorporates maps showing the vital nature of headwater streams to the overall health of rivers, as well as how they contribute to successful angling across the United States.

“Small, seasonal streams are vital spawning and rearing areas for fish, and are the sources of cold, clean water that make up larger rivers,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “All we are asking for is that the Clean Water Act protects small streams as it did so stunningly well for the first 30 years under the Clean Water Act. If Congress succeeds in stopping their protections, fishing and opportunities to fish will seriously decline from pollution and development.

“Anglers need to make their voices heard. Tell Congress to let the rulemaking process continue, and to suggest changes to the rule through the established process rather than killing it altogether for political reasons. Playing politics with clean water and fishing opportunity is not acceptable.”

The report includes comprehensive maps showing these “intermittent and ephemeral” streams for 16 states where intact headwaters and their seasonal streams contribute greatly to overall river health as well as angling opportunity. The full report, as well as individual, print-ready maps produced by TU’s Science Team with data from the United States Geological Survey are available for download by news outlets here.

“Smaller headwater and ephemeral streams are the life support system for our larger waters, providing essential cold water, nutrients and woody material,” said Jack Williams, TU’s senior scientist. “Restoring their protective status under the Clean Water Act is an elementary step toward protecting fish and fishing all across the country.”

Articles by the same author

Comments (6 posted):

plecain on 02/07/2014 13:23:02
I think TU might want to rethink this one. The proposed rule seems to go a lot further than the article says. From my reading of it, it looks like it could be used by some overzealous bureaucrat, or some of the more extreme 'environmental' groups, to file lawsuits regulating, at the federal level, things as small as spring runoff puddles in your own back yard. I'm a TU member, but don't always agree with its support for some things.
king joe on 02/07/2014 16:38:50
Whoa....where to start with this one? Its like deja vu all over again. Sometimes I look at the states and think...wow, you guys got it right. THEN...others, I go...look to the north to see what we are doing...or in this case relative to the TU proposal...what we did wrong. In Canada, we have a piece of legislation that is called the Federal Fisheries Act. This Act...protects fish and fish habitat...and habitat is loosely defined as 'needed for feeding, shelter and reproduction...and all the corridors (streams) connecting them'...and I paraphrase when I say that. The act also brings into play....direct and indirect fish habitat. Direct being...well, fish actively use 'this' feature while indirect could be many things such as 'just' a water contributer to a food source (i.e. creek banks)...to a range of things that could be waterborne or end up in the water. While this act has been around since the 1800's, it did not undergo any re-writes until recently..and not in a good way. That said, the act was only selectively deployed across Canada being most used for Marine fisheries more than anything. Late 1996, the provinces whom were 'doing' the act, pushed the act back to the Feds and then, the act was started to be more applied. At first, many thought like you did Plecain...'even a pond could be fish habitat'.....but that didn't happen. Logic always still applies....and 'zealous bureaucrats' are fewer than logical scientists/biologists....not that that always matters....I concede. In Ontario, there is also a wonderous piece of legislation called the Drainage Act....which basically is the empowerment of the province to create waterways...or alter existing waterways to suit agricultural needs. This INCLUDES enclosing 'those pesky small creeks' as needed because there in the way of development. The Fisheries Act should have protected these smaller...and in many cases, indirect fish habitats and because Fed Law supercedes Prov law, there shouldn't be an issue...but it didn't....and here is where the re-write mentioned above came in. Despite science effectively proving the value of small and intermittent streams...development won the day....and proving impacts became harder for biologist whom ALSO had budget/staff cuts (nice 1-2 punch by the fed government). There is so much more to say on this and this could easily be a complete dissertation on Biology vs. Legislature... but suffice to say....GET BEHIND the TU work now before its too late. They have experience in this on both sides of the border...and know what they do (despite the Plan having only one picture of what could be construed as a head water stream). The alternative to what they are suggesting....is pavement or creeks in tubes/pipes UNDER pavement. By the way...I am not a TU member...and never have been. I have worked with TU on projects, yes...and sat across the table from them as I reviewed projects they proposed (as a Fed regulator). I know well...I think...both sides of the story...and I'd rather be on the side of caution...than EVER on the side of development. Always keep in mind...and I have said this 1000 times to developers or agriculture or...or...or...on the side of streams...."waterways are not inconveniences that you need to solve". Just sayin' is all. King Joe Outa Here!
littledavid123 on 02/07/2014 22:05:32
I am in support of the Congress taking this power away from the EPA because ultimately the EPA will be deciding who can and can't graze cattle, raise a garden or even mow your grass because it may affect the quality of run-off water (intermittent stream). Worst case these decisions should be left to the states to decide as the EPA no longer has the citizens best interest at heart. Dave
king joe on 03/07/2014 16:00:21
Would it be that simple....so pastoral...so innocent and all Kumbaya...I'd agree. BUT it typically is not. This is known as the Tragedy of the Commons. WE feel the right to do what we want with the resources near us...and be damned the consequences downstream, downwind or even around the corner. Is it a right to put a feedlot and basically a beef-plantation on a headwater stream? Is it a right to graze cattle in creeks? Is it a right to mow your lawn...to the waters edge because them pesky reeds just don't look right? Is it a right to plant a garden in a floodplain because dang, that dark soil grows great tomatoes. I suppose I should have asked all of the above like this instead "Is IT right to..." ....because really, all the above IS a right. Ya know what they say...give an inch and they'll take a stream...i mean...mile....a mile of stream...wait, what? I like to believe the majority of people will do the right thing...but too many times...I've seen contrary....and ONE 'I didn't think it would matter'...is the Exxon Valdez. Its the uncappable underwater well head off the west coast. Its California San Francisco Bay (love the neon green and red inland bays), its the farmer that dumps his pig manure into a creek because, well, the solution to pollution is dilution.....its...its...its. I'm just saying...been der, don dat here in Canada. The Tragedy of the Commons rules here and we are perhaps blessed with lots of good waters and woods. THis does not...never does...mean, we take it lightly or for granted. Legislation....is needed...smart legislation....and no legislation...as I already said....the alternative is pavement. King Joe Outa Here!
littledavid123 on 03/07/2014 22:14:38
Yeah right, and climate change, global warming or global cooling (not sure what the current politically correct name is) is based upon honest, non-manipulated facts! Obama EPA Chief: Pollution is Racist Dave
Liphookedau on 03/07/2014 22:52:06
I agree with King Joe also as it's up to us all to keep watch on what's happening as The Small Feeder Streams are also The Start & Part of all The River Systems to Keep The Waters Clean & The Areas always Pristine. There are always laws made & passed however from time to time they are broken as there's cracks in The legislation which protect some from being prosecuted. A typical example is about 10-15 miles from here where Mining Companies literally removed The Mountainsides thus removing all The Vegetation like what happened in Idaho with The Hydrauliking years ago whereas if I cut a tree down in my backyard without approval I can be Fined,double standards ??? Brian
Add/View Comments
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Tagged as:

trout unlimited

Rate this article


Follow NA Fly Fishing Forums!