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Trump does about face on promise to protect fishing waters

Trump's campaign pledges to conserve lands and protect waters for hunters and anglers look to be bogus.

Trump's campaign pledges to conserve lands and protect waters for hunters and anglers look to be bogus.

On the recent anniversary of the Day of Infamy, December 7, 1941, when Japanese warplanes decimated the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, President-Elect Donald Trump spoke of love.

It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who'd coined the phrase for the attack. But it was his fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt whom Trump chose to venerate last month.

"Honoring the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt," read Trump's Facebook post, "we will conserve and protect our beautiful natural resources for the next generation — including lands for anglers, hunters and all who enjoy the outdoors."

Those words were a thing of beauty to the likes of Erin Murray. She's been fishing since she was a little girl. Murray, who serves as the vice president of Women Anglers of Minnesota, the oldest women's fishing club in the nation, casts for trout from a kayak in the pristine waters of the Brule River.

"Clean and reliable water is a huge economic driver," she says. "For drinking water, industry, and tourism, all of those things. Fishing generates $48 billion to our country's economy every year.… When it comes to Mother Earth, we have just one. So yes, hearing that it was a priority about protecting the waters anglers fish and lands enjoyed by hunters was good news."     

President Trump must have forgotten folks like Murray after his inauguration. Within minutes of being sworn in as the 45th U.S. president, Trump debuted his priorities on various energy and environmental issues. One of the new leader's cornerstones is whacking what's known as the Clean Water Rule.

"For too long, we've been held back by burdensome regulations…," the White House website read shortly after Trump's swearing in. "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the [Clean] Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers.…"

How nixing the rule would benefit working people, the White House didn't say.

The rule protects against pollution in everything from wetlands to oceans. When it was finalized in 2015, environmental and sportsmen's groups applauded. Among the more than 200 outdoor organizations that supported the move were Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Izaak Walton League, and Trout Unlimited. 

The fear now is that these waters, which also serve as a drinking source for one out of every three Americans, will be dirtier and more prone to public health disasters.  

Murray of Women Anglers gets that. She also gets how federal regulation can be overkill.

"I'm hopeful that the new administration can find a happy medium," she says. "We all have a personal responsibility in taking care of the water and the land. People's rights as private landowners should be important too. Sometimes more rules doesn't necessarily mean better protections. In this situation, it's hard to say. But I do know eliminating a regulation that protects drinking water and so many of the places we enjoy fishing is probably not the place to start."