EPA slashes protections for wetlands to comply with Supreme Court ruling

Aug 30, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army have proposed a new definition of “waters of the United States” in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Sackett v. EPA. In the May 2023 ruling, the Supreme Court held that in order to fall under federal oversight, a wetland must have a “continuous surface connection” to a navigable waterbody. Prior to the Sackett decision, a wetland needed to have a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterbody. Under the new definition, which took effect immediately upon its release yesterday, up to 4.9 million miles of ephemeral streams and up to 63 percent of the nation’s wetlands by acreage will no longer be protected by federal pollution controls.

“While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. Environmental advocates were similarly disappointed: “This rule spells out how the Sackett decision has undermined our ability to prevent the destruction of our nation’s wetlands, which protect drinking water, absorb floods and provide habitat for wildlife,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation. “Congress needs to step up to protect the water we drink, our wildlife, and our way of life.”

August was a great month for public lands

It’s been a great month for public land conservation in the West. From a new national monument designation to some major legal decisions upholding climate action and conservation, August brought a deluge of good news for public lands. In a new blog post, Center for Western Priorities Communications Manager Kate Groetzinger rounds up the headlines that had us smiling (and occasionally even cheering) this month.

Quick hits

New rule removes protections from more than half of U.S. wetlands

New York Times | Washington Post | NPR | Forbes | CNN

Judge to decide fate of exploratory mining projects in Arizona’s Patagonia Mountains

Arizona Public Media | Tucson Sentinel

Policy framework for coexisting with predators could benefit both people and the environment

The Conversation

Who owns the West?

High Country News

As coal mines depleted a Navajo Nation aquifer, feds failed to flag losses, report says

Arizona Republic

America is using up its groundwater like there’s no tomorrow

New York Times

Trail apps leading to problems on public lands

Denver Post

Opinion: It’s time for Montana delegation to unite behind Blackfoot bill

Missoula Current

Quote of the day

We don’t have a system that’s currently set up to make good choices quickly. We tend to take a long time and we make OK choices, and that’s not what we need going forward.”

—Jonathan Hayes, Audubon Southwest executive director, KUNC

Picture This


Stargazers are in for a treat on Wednesday evening: a rare super blue moon! 🌕

The closest, brightest full moon of the year is also the second full moon in August. America’s public lands are ideal places for watching celestial wonders like this event.

If you are planning a trip to view the night skies, please help protect our public lands:

🌕 Stay on trails, in parking lots and on sidewalks.

🌕 Park only in designated spots. Never park on vegetation.

🌕 Pack it in, pack it out. If a trash receptacle is full, please take your trash with you.

Where will you be watching the biggest and brightest full moon of the year?

Photo at @JoshuaTreeNPS by Brad Sutton


Featured image: A wetland in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service