Press Release Dec 30, 2022

Biden’s Final Water Rule Better Protects Waterways for People and Parks

"Today we can all celebrate cleaner water for our national parks and communities."

Today the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released the final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule ensuring stronger protections for the nation’s wetlands, rivers and streams, making our waterways cleaner for all. The final rule restores protections gutted by the former administration for more than half of the nation’s wetlands and thousands of miles of small streams and rivers. It also more strongly reinforces the 50-year bedrock Clean Water Act, which will better hold polluters accountable.

Statement by Chad Lord, Senior Director of Environmental Policy and Climate Change for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“Today we can all celebrate cleaner water for our national parks and communities. After working with our partners and hearing from park supporters across the country, these more clearly defined protections will help keep our waters safer and cleaner for drinking, swimming, boating, fishing and so much more.

“Our work is not done with two-thirds of national park waters impaired and many communities today still living with unsafe drinking water. The health of our parks is directly linked to the health of the waters that surround and flow through them. And protecting our waterways upstream from pollution will improve the water quality downstream for the millions of people that visit our parks and the diverse, endangered wildlife that call our parks home. From the impacts of climate change to drinking water crises and algal blooms, cleaner water works in tandem with restoration investments already underway at our parks and promotes businesses, tourism and recreational opportunities across the country. Today is a win for all of us.”

Restored protections and cleaner water in our parks may include:

  • Restored protections for an estimated 86% of Indiana Dunes National Park’s wetlands. The park is one of the most biodiverse in the country and is home to the Great Marsh and more than 1500 plant and animal species.
  • Restored protections for an estimated 81% of the wetlands in the Big Cypress Swamp watershed. This includes sections of Everglades National Park. The park is home to many endangered and threatened species including the Florida panther and supports roughly $110 million in visitor spending and more than 1500 local jobs.
  • Stronger protections for wetlands in and around the Great Smoky Mountains. Wetlands are critical for improving the health of park waterways, better protecting its prized native book trout and the area’s recreational fishing industry.

Background: The WOTUS rule aims to more clearly identify which of our nation’s wetlands, streams lakes and rivers — the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans — are protected under the Clean Water Act. The protections included today are also consistent with NPCA’s position in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in June 2022 in the United States Supreme Court case Sackett vs. Environmental Protection Agency. The final rule will be effective 60 days after it’s published in the Federal Register.

The National Park Service oversees thousands of miles of waterways and coasts throughout the country – from trout streams in Yellowstone to wetlands in the Everglades. For more than 20 years, national park visitors have consistently ranked water quality or water access as a top-five most valued attribute when visiting national parks. The Outdoor Industry Association found that consumers spend $887 billion annually on outdoor recreation, with nearly $140 billion on kayaking, rafting, canoeing, scuba diving and other water and recreation activities, all of which takes place in our parks.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

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