Survey: Hunters, anglers cast support for EPA's Clean Water Rule

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 22, 2015 - Four of every five hunters and anglers surveyed nationwide approve of the Obama administration's new rule that extends Clean Water Act protections to wetlands and streams.

Eighty-three percent of the 1,000 respondents said they supported the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and 75 percent agreed that it provided “important safeguards for drinking water supplies, fish and wildlife habitat and public health.”

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“The public has spoken clearly, the sportsmen have spoken clearly,” and now it's up to the politicians - we'll see “whether they'll listen or not,” said Jim Martin, the conservation director for the Berkley Conservation Institute.   

The survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican research firm, and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democrat affiliated firm, for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Survey respondents were first identified as hunters or anglers through marketing information and then were confirmed as sportsmen before they were polled.

Eighty-two percent of the sportsmen respondents, who were contacted by phone and email between late June and late July, said water quality protections could be compatible with economic prosperity.

Support was broad across party lines, too, the survey found. Seventy-seven percent of Republican respondents said they were supportive and 77 percent of self-described Tea Party voters - who made up 49 percent of the 1,000 respondents - indicated support. Seventy-nine percent of independents and 97 percent of Democrats said they supported the rule as well.

Sportsmen “perceive (the rule) as providing safeguards… (instead of) burdensome government regulation that was really going to tie up agriculture and other businesses with red tape,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies.

Rates of support by other demographic categories were found to be relatively homogenous. Regionally speaking, hunters and anglers in the Northeast were the most supportive of the rule (86 percent), with Midwesterners (85 percent), Southerners (81 percent) and Westerners (79 percent) following.

In terms of gender and the rural/urban divide: 87 percent of female and 81 percent of male anglers and hunters surveyed as supporters and 77 percent of rural sportsmen concurred.

The rule, which will take affect in late August, is “not a partisan issue,” said Collin O'Mara, the president and CEO of NWF. The survey's results show there is “an incredible disconnect” between what groups “more interested in politics” are saying about the rule in Washington, D.C., and what American sportsmen think is acceptable, he said.

O'Mara said he had worked with the American Farm Bureau Federation - one of the rule's most vocal opponents - as well as the National Farmers Union to identify their concerns with the administrative rule. On today's call, O'Mara said those concerns, including the “original ambiguities” - referring to how water on agricultural land would be affected - were addressed in the final edition.

The rule is “very clear,” “black and white” even, he stressed. If folks read the final rule, and see the clarifications that have been made, they'll see significant improvements, he said.

Voters can, and apparently will, make their voices heard on the rule, at least according to the survey. Forty-seven percent of respondents said the views of policy makers on the Clean Water Act and its application are a “primary factor” for them in the voting booth.  And nearly all of the respondents (92 percent) said fish and wildlife habitat issues were at least “somewhat significant” to their voting decisions.

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