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 11:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 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 8:05 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
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.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT