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 2:19 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT