The Clear Water Act at 50 and What it Means for Birds

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This week, we’re celebrating the Clear Water Act’s 50th birthday—and half a century of defending America’s waters. It’s onerous to overstate how crucial this laws was and is in decreasing the quantity of air pollution flowing into our rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands. Right here at Audubon, we all know birds and communities want entry to scrub water, which is why this bipartisan laws is so crucial—guaranteeing clear and considerable water in rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and marshes in landscapes the place that is paramount to birds’ survival. And meaning defending the Clear Water Act now and into the long run.

It’s straightforward to take the Clear Water Act as a right, so let’s take a look at what it truly does for individuals and birds.

Along with empowering federal businesses just like the U.S. Environmental Safety Company to control the quantities of air pollution flowing immediately into streams and waterways, the Act protects small streams, wetlands and intermittent streams which can be hotspots for chicken life and important to making sure water high quality in downstream rivers and bigger water our bodies. Wetlands cowl roughly 110 million acres within the continental United States and are indispensable habitat for tons of of species of birds, together with the Bald Eagle, Wooden Stork, Northern Pintail, American Bittern, Semipalmated Plover, Prothonotary Warbler, and lots of extra birds, fish, and wildlife. These waterways additionally filter air pollution and supply consuming water for greater than 117 million Individuals or about 33 p.c of the nation.

Birds require the clear water and thriving ecosystems present in and round wholesome water our bodies to outlive. They don’t simply rely upon the water itself, however on the whole areas alongside rivers, streams, shorelines, water in depressions within the panorama, the soil, in addition to the fish, bugs, and crops throughout the whole watershed. To supply this vital useful resource for birds, floor waters will need to have ample stream and be the suitable depth for the feeding or resting behaviors of varied chicken species. Wetlands and streams have to be allowed to flood or be inundated with water at applicable intervals, whether or not common, intermittent, or seasonal, to be able to restore water ranges, replenish helpful vitamins within the soil, and assist crucial vegetation. Clear, accessible water is significant to birds for fish, insect and plant meals sources, wholesome breeding habitats, ample safety from predators, and needed resting factors throughout migration, nesting, and elevating their younger.

Wetlands specifically are crucial for chicken well being and inhabitants stability. Roughly one-third of North American chicken species, together with the Nice Blue Heron and Brown Pelican, use wetlands for meals, shelter, or breeding. Some 138 and subspecies of birds in the US are designated as “wetland dependent.” These birds embody cranes, grebes, herons, kingfishers, loons, owls, perching birds, pelicans, shorebirds, falcons, and waterfowl. This checklist contains 27 forms of geese, from the Wooden Duck to the Blue-Winged Teal, 20 forms of gulls and terns, 17 forms of herons, seven forms of Warblers, egrets, bitterns, and lots of different species rely upon wetlands of many varieties in each area of the nation.

In line with the most recent State of the Birds Report, a long time of funding in wetlands are producing a constructive development for waterbirds, geese, and diving birds. A lot of this success is because of impactful coverage measures that complement the Clear Water Act, just like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and U.S. Farm Invoice conservation applications. Regardless of all the wonderful benefits of the Act and the way it has cleaned our waterways over time, it has confronted challenges over time and continues to return beneath menace from courts and politicians with a particularly slender view of the Clear Water Act. Over the previous few years, the authorized definition of which streams might be regulated left many waterways with out the correct protections. Because of this wetlands all through the nation are liable to unchecked improvement, threatening communities and birds who rely upon these assets for clear water.

Fortunately, sturdy coalitions exist that proceed to champion the Clear Water Act and the protections it supplies for birds and other people. Audubon is proud to affix with our conservation, recreation, enterprise, and different companions to assist the Act and strengthen it via sound science, coverage, and advocacy.

Birds are telling us that we have to do extra to make sure their survival—and ours. Over the following 50 years, Audubon will proceed championing the federal legal guidelines that defend our water, air, land, and wildlife.

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