Skip to main content

Ted Turner: Time to finally protect wetlands, streams

By Ted Turner
updated 2:06 PM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
Ted Turner visits his bison herd in Bozeman, Montana.
Ted Turner visits his bison herd in Bozeman, Montana.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ted Turner: Clean water is vital, but sources of our rivers and lakes were not protected
  • EPA will advance ruling to protect streams and wetlands, which have been in legal limbo
  • Turner: If streams and wetlands become polluted, it poses a threat to all clean water
  • Turner: We can't wait any longer for 40-year-old Clean Water Act to extend its protection

Editor's note: Ted Turner, founder of CNN and Turner Broadcasting, is chairman of Turner Enterprises, Inc., and oversees 2 million acres of land in 12 states and in Argentina, as well as more than 55,000 bison. He is also chairman of the Turner Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and the Turner Endangered Species Fund. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author.

(CNN) -- Clean water is vital to every single American. Families should be able to turn on the tap and have safe drinking water for their children, vacationers expect healthy rivers for fishing and swimming, and businesses need a steady supply of clean water to make products.

The administration is proposing a clean water rule to better protect America's most vulnerable waters -- the streams and wetlands that feed our larger rivers, lakes and bays. These bodies of water were clearly protected by the Clean Water Act when it was passed more than 40 years ago. Unfortunately, two convoluted Supreme Court decisions, actions of the previous administration and inaction by Congress have left these water bodies in a legal limbo. This poses a threat to all of us.

Our waters have been threatened by this uncertain status quo for more than a decade. We can't wait any longer.
Ted Turner

Without this common-sense new rule, about 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands are at risk. These bodies of water may seem small, but they form part of the drinking water supplies for more than one third of Americans.

Clean, healthy waters are also the engines behind a strong outdoor recreation economy. Nationally, hunters and anglers spent $90 billion in 2011 and wildlife watchers spent an additional $55 billion, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

These dollars translate into economic vitality -- filling beds in hotels and making the cash registers ring in restaurants and sporting goods stores. All told, hunting and angling expenditures contribute about $200 billion to the economy each year.

See Matt Damon's favorite role yet

Like many Americans, I treasure our waters, and I am proud that I am able to manage my properties to preserve their natural streams, wetlands and grasslands.

On my Ladder Ranch in southern New Mexico, you can see the importance of small streams in action. These tiny streams, in a very arid area, support a diversity of animal and plant life that make this place special. In New Mexico, 55% of all vertebrate species depend on wetland habitats, and nearly 25% of the threatened or endangered species in the state live in wetlands.

It feels good to do my part to protect and restore small streams and riparian areas where I can. But water flows downhill. In order to ensure we have safe drinking water for all, communities upstream and downstream must work together.

I applaud the administration's initiative to restore Clean Water Act protections to these vulnerable waters and to keep them from pollution, and I urge the President to follow through and finish the effort this year. I urge members of Congress to support the Environmental Protection Agency's public process to clarify and restore these protections -- a public process called for by the U.S Supreme Court.

Our waters have been threatened by this uncertain status quo for more than a decade. We can't wait any longer. Now is the time to ensure the Clean Water Act effectively protects the water our children drink -- and the businesses that keep our economy strong.

Poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans value clean drinking water. I write now to add my voice to the chorus demanding clean water.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:15 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT