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Clean Water Act Turns 40 - Michigan Conservationists Say More is Needed

photo of children canoeing at MUCC camp       Courtesy of MUCC
photo of children canoeing at MUCC camp Courtesy of MUCC
October 18, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - It was 40 years ago today that Congress passed the Clean Water Act with bipartisan support, and today Michigan has a lot at stake. Outdoor sports are big business in Michigan, and conservationists say the Clean Water Act plays a major role.

Kent Wood, legislative director with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, is a hunter concerned that policy makers interested in improving the economy might strip away clean water protections. Stereotyping doesn't help, he says.

"Especially in some circles, if you just mention the Clean Water Act, they say, 'Oh, well, that's just kind of hippie environmentalism stuff.' It's not just an issue of environmental protection or hunting and fishing rights. They're all connected."

Wood says the Clean Water Act has improved the Grand River and the Detroit River, and it's restoring the Great Lakes. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors have seen the impact of pollution for themselves, he adds.

"You cannot freely pollute and expect that you're then going to be able to go fish or hunt. It just doesn't work that way."

He says it's obvious to him that the Clean Water Act is essential for the economic vitality of Michigan.

"That's who we are. We're surrounded on three sides by the largest fresh water bodies in the world. We've got over 11,000 lakes and hundreds and thousands of miles of rivers lakes and streams."

Wood says there is more work to be done to protect disappearing wetlands in Michigan. In September, the U.S. House passed HR-3409, legislation that would roll back some provisions of the Clean Water Act. However, it has very little support in the Senate, and the President has threatened a veto.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching generate more than $3 billion year in Michigan. For the first time in decades, the number of people hunting and fishing in Michigan has increased, and Wood says the Clean Water Act deserves at least part of the credit.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI