On May 25, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Sackett v. EPA that significantly limits the EPA’s ability to protect wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Save the Dunes is disappointed and unsettled by this decision, as it will leave millions of acres of critical wetlands now ineligible for protection under federal law.
The majority opinion concluded that the federal government’s regulatory authority applies only to wetlands with a continuous surface connection to water bodies that are considered “traditional” water such as lakes, rivers, and streams, such that the wetlands are indistinguishable from those waters.
This means that wetlands that are part of a hydrological ecosystem – including those that are connected directly via groundwater – but having no continuous surface connection to traditional waters, will no longer be regulated by the EPA and are now more vulnerable to pollution discharges and other threats that may lead to their destruction. This ruling also rejects the well-established practice of having federal protection for wetlands adjacent to regulated waters, that are only separated from these waters by man-made dikes or barriers, beach dunes, etc., and now requires wetlands to be physically adjoining instead.
Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of Northwest Indiana. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding. Now more than ever, we need our Indiana state representatives to support increased regulations to protect the estimated 80% of Indiana wetlands that now fall under state jurisdiction, and our federal representatives to champion stricter definitions for what the EPA can protect through regulation. These actions are critical in order to protect the ecosystems that are vital to the health and wellbeing of the Lake Michigan watershed and the people who live in this area. We hope our followers and the community we serve join us in our efforts to advocate for our wetlands, the health and vitality of the environment, and the people who live, work, and recreate in Northwest Indiana.