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Conservation groups petition Forest Service for stronger wetland protections

October 31, 2023
Daniel Timmons, 505-570-7014, dtimmons@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
#ForceForNature, #LivingRivers, #PressStatement, #RethinkRivers
SANTA FE, N.M. – WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Workshop, and over 25 other environmental organizations petitioned the U.S. Forest Service to strengthen legal protections for important wetland ecosystems known as fens. This petition follows a new rule announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army in August which removes Clean Water Act protections from nonpermanent waterways and wetlands without a continuous surface connection to other covered waters. Under this new rule, which follows the May 2023 Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA, fen ecosystems are likely to lose Clean Water Act protections and become more vulnerable to development and other threats. 

“These rare wetlands are an irreplaceable, nature-based solution for climate resilience, and we hope to see the Forest Service recognize and protect them as such,” said Joanna Zhang, wild rivers advocate for WildEarth Guardians.

“It’s nearly impossible to restore the ecological function of a fen once it has been damaged, so the protection of intact fens is especially important,” she added. 

While rare, fens can be found across nearly all regions in the United States. These peat-forming wetlands are fed by groundwater and take thousands of years to develop. Peatlands such as fens store approximately 44% of the world’s soil carbon, and play a vital role in storing water, preventing soil erosion, recycling nutrients, and filtering out pollutants.

Despite the critical role fens play in climate resilience, they lack the federal protections needed to remain intact and healthy in the face of threats such as groundwater alteration, pollution and other human disturbances. 

The petition was submitted on October 19, 2023 under the Administrative Procedure Act and follows a comment letter the groups sent in July 2023 as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s climate resilience rulemaking process

Wild Rivers Advocate Joanna Zhang documenting the fens of Homestake Valley, Colorado (Chris Cohen photo)


Other Contact
Michael Gorman, Campaign Manager, Wilderness Workshop, michael@wildernessworkshop.org, Office: 970-963-3977 ; Cell: 970-274-4719