Whether or not Joni Mitchell thinks creeks are paradise, it became a lot easier to pave them over and put up a parking lot this year.
"So in May, the US Supreme Court limited really the authority of the EPA, which is the Environmental Protection Agency, to regulate certain elements of our nation's waterway," Redgie Collins said.
Collins is policy director at CalTrout. Streams, rivers, and wetlands of many forms, across the United States were dealt a serious blow this summer by the US Supreme Court in their ruling on the case of Sackett v EPA.
"The federal backstops that were once present were really decimated by that made decision by the Supreme Court," Collins said.
This week, the EPA, their hands forced by the ruling, made official, rollbacks of protections for various “waters of the United States.”
The Sackett case centered around the efforts of Idaho couple Michael and Chantell Sackett to fill in a part of their property designated as a wetland by the EPA.
Because of the court's decision, wetlands and waterways isolated from larger bodies of water have been most imperiled, Collins said.
"What we'll see is a testing of those limits by developers to see if they can encroach further upon what I believe is really sensitive habitat in the form of wetlands or intermittent streams," Collins said.
Collins said there’s major concern in the Western US over the loss of federal protections for seasonal waterways.
"Those streams that may not always have water, but when they do, they support critical habitat for ecosystems," Collins said.
Collins does note that California has a number of its own statewide protections for surface waters and wetlands. Even so, California has lost 90% of the state’s wetland habitat, and Collins said those which remain are not in the clear.
"Areas that we as Californians, love to camp and visit and fish and swim in will all be affected by this ruling," Collins said.