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Montana Reacts To Rollback Of Protections On Nation's Waterways

The Clark Fork River near the University of Montana Campus, April 30, 2018.
Josh Burnham
The Clark Fork River near the University of Montana Campus, April 30, 2018.

The Trump Administration’s plan to roll back an Obama-era policy designed to protect over half the nation’s waterways from pollution is drawing starkly different reactions in Montana.

The Montana Wildlife Federation’s Dave Chadwick condemns the re-write of the so-called “Waters of the United States” policy as a sweeping mistake.

“To repeal it, throw it out and then concoct a new rule with substantially less public engagement - I mean frankly, it’s a disservice to the public and the democratic process. And it’s also bad for water quality.”

The Trump Administration is poised to remove federal protections for wetlands nationally unless they’re connected to another federally protected waterway. Those protections would also be removed for streams, ditches and ponds that exist only during rains.

Thirteen states, including Montana, successfully challenged the Obama-era water protections as inconsistent, burdensome and an overreach of federal power.

“Well, two points: first, a federal judge ruled that the 2015 rule was illegal," says Montana Department of Justice spokesman, John Barnes. "The second point is that Montana does a pretty darn good job of protecting its waters. We have a very robust system in place.”

The proposed rules now go up for public comment, ahead of any final adoption by the Trump Administration.

The Associated Press reports environmental groups are promising legal challenges.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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