The majority of Indiana’s wetlands are under attack as SB 389 has now passed both chambers of the Indiana legislature. Currently, only wetlands that are connected to navigable waters or their tributaries are protected by federal law, while federal protections of isolated wetlands were left unprotected through an administrative repeal of provisions in the Clean Water Act. Thankfully, two decades ago, the State of Indiana recognized the importance of protecting clean waters and high quality habitat through a state regulation that protects more than 80 percent of Indiana’s remaining wetlands from development. These wetlands, unconnected from navigable waters, are vitally important to wildlife, water quality and flood prevention.
SB 389, now heading to Governor’s desk, will remove these essential protections. Indiana’s Isolated Wetlands Law currently protects 80 percent of Indiana’s remaining wetlands. Senate Bill 389 will repeal Indiana’s Isolated Wetlands protection law.
Wetlands provide numerous environmental and economic benefits, and these isolated wetlands are no exception. The most immediate benefit many BHA members will cite is habitat for fish and wildlife. Wetlands provide fish with food and nurseries. They filter storm runoff and trap pollutants, improving the water quality of our fisheries. It’s impossible to think of wildlife species like ducks, beavers, frogs and crayfish without thinking about wetlands. Such places are vital to their ability to thrive, with wetlands providing food and refuge even to species that don’t live there full time. Places where wetlands connect to other habitat types, like forests or prairies, foster some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet.
However, the benefits don’t stop with the wildlife we cherish. Humans directly benefit from wetlands. Their role as filters cleans our drinking water by preventing sediments and toxins from entering aquifers. Wetlands absorb excess rainwater, which both reduces the depth of floods and slows their flow. That reduction in flow also lessens the effects of erosion. Instead, in a state with dwindling wetlands, large floods are frequent and cost millions of dollars in damages every year. If we lose more wetland areas, flooding will only get worse.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is active in its opposition to this legislation due to its potential to cause irreparable harm to wildlife habitat and the many ecosystem services that wetlands provide us. Please stand with the Indiana Chapter of BHA and urge the governor to veto SB 389 by taking action here!