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Washington’s ORWs Highlighted in “America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge”

Washington State’s first-ever ‘Outstanding’ river designations were recently highlighted in the launch of the Biden Administration’s “America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge”. The challenge is a call to action for federal agencies, states, Tribal, and local communities to conserve and restore America’s lakes, streams, and wetlands. In sharing examples of the ways “states and tribal governments are already using their own authorities and resources to better protect America’s freshwater systems” our successful campaign to establish ORW protection for the Cascade, Green, and Napeequa Rivers was highlighted: “Washington recently protected almost 1,000 miles of rivers as Outstanding Resource Waters.”

Freshwater crisis infographic – 1

Our Freshwater Resources Are At Risk

Despite their importance to both people and nature, freshwater resources here in the U.S. and around the world are at risk. Globally, wetlands are disappearing at three times the rate of our forests, and freshwater animal populations are declining at twice the rate of terrestrial animals.

There is still time to protect the critical freshwater resources for ourselves and for our children. Federal agencies, states, Tribal, and local communities all have a major role to play in conserving these vital resources. Water, and everything in it, moves—without regard to geopolitical boundaries—so we must work together across governments to conserve and restore the freshwater bodies that protect and support us.

Bold & New National Goals

The Biden Administration has worked to build upon and improve our country’s longstanding policy of no net loss of wetlands. Even still, freshwater resources are at risk. That is why in addition to reaffirming the importance of halting the loss of wetlands, the Biden Administration is setting bold, new national goals that help rebuild our nation’s wetlands and freshwater resources: 1) Reconnect, restore, and protect 8 million acres of wetlands by 2030, with an emphasis on forested, vegetated, peat soil, brackish, and tidal wetlands; and 2) Reconnect, restore, and protect 100,000 miles of our nations’ rivers and streams by 2030, using approaches like removal of impediments and stream bank restoration.

Each of these goals is consistent with the global Freshwater Challenge, a commitment made by the US alongside 45 other nations, which aims to restore 186,000 miles of degraded rivers and 850 million acres of wetlands globally by 2030.

In addition to the national numeric goals for wetland and river protection, the America the
Beautiful Freshwater Challenge asks participants to pursue these additional goals:

  • Protect our sources of clean drinking water, including groundwater aquifers to ensure that
    we are safeguarding these from contamination and helping to recharge these important
  • Support achieving and maintaining fishable and swimmable waterways
  • Enhance the natural climate resilience provided by healthy and functional freshwater and estuary resources, including protection from floods, wildfires, aquifer depletion, intense heat, soil health degradation, nutrient loading and drought
  • Support aquatic ecosystem biodiversity, including addressing threats from invasive species
  • Honor Tribal trust and treaty obligations and ways of life, and incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into restoration approaches
  • Ensure that freshwater resources and estuaries continue to support regional and rural economies, including clean manufacturing, global supply chain, outdoor recreational industries, farmers, ranchers, and forest owners
  • Harness and protect the national security, supply chain, and drinking water benefits of freshwater and estuary resources
  • Protect clean, safe access to our freshwater and estuary resources, especially for communities with environmental justice concerns.