Scott Pruitt doesn't care about our fishing

Donald Trump's pick to run the EPA will spell disaster for our streams, rivers and wetlands
small stream fly fishing
Photo: Chad Shmukler

Anglers are obsessed with water. Freshwater, saltwater, moving water, still water; it matters not. We peer from car windows as we speed across bridges, staring down in wonder at even the most unimpressive of trickles. We yearn not only to see water, but to know and explore it, to discover what quarry swims in it. We’re compelled to protect and preserve it, to stand in the way of those that would harm or endanger it. And now more than perhaps any time in a generation, the waters of our United States, which so often preoccupy our minds, face a grave and serious threat.

That threat is Scott Pruitt, former Oklahoma Attorney General, who Donald Trump has nominated to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Make no mistake, Pruitt doesn’t care about our water. He doesn’t care about our fishing. He doesn’t care about our outdoor heritage. He doesn’t care about our uniquely American conservation success story. Pruitt has spent much of his career working to undermine or nullify protections on waters across our nation and if we anglers stand idly by while Pruitt is confirmed and appointed to lead the EPA, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing it to happen.

Within moments of the transition of power, the new occupants of the White House declared a war on clean water, making good on a campaign promise that they would seek to undo the Clean Water Rule, a set of guidelines approved in 2014 which clarifies what is and is not protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act. And it does so in the most common sense of ways. Put simply, the Clean Water Rule states the obvious: that what goes up must come down and that protecting the “waters of the United States” means protecting not just our major rivers and lakes, but all of the interconnected waters that feed them.

It may be safe to say that few Americans understand this concept of interconnected waterways better than anglers. We seek out places where rills combine to form brooks and creeks and spill into our streams, because we know that trout like them. We follow our streams to where they meet our rivers, drifting boats down crystalline torrents in search of trophy fish. We follow our rivers to where they near or meet the sea, hoping for char and salmon and other anadromous fish that race up from the impossible blue depths of our oceans. And all along the way we ply waters where aquifers fuel springs that charge our streams with cold, clean water knowing that, in turn, our algae-flecked marshes and wetlands replenish and nourish those aquifers and springs.

But the new administration, preferably with Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, wants to do away with protections on our headwater streams, the “duck factories” that are our wetlands and marshes and so on. They justify these goals with false claims of wide-reaching, blanket government overreach and imagined economic impacts that stunt job creation.

Scott Pruitt may be the perfect choice to lead this assault on the waters that course through our fisheries. Pruitt has made a career out of waging war on clean water, siding with industry and big business instead of anglers and other Americans. Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times while serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. In 13 of those 14 cases, the co-parties on Pruitt’s lawsuits were campaign donors or donors of Pruitt-supporting PACs. During his tenure as Attorney General, Pruitt also repeatedly undermined clean water protections by stalling court cases or flat out refusing to enforce regulations, choosing instead to allow the poultry industry to flood Oklahoma’s waters with phosphorus pollution. And those poultry companies that benefitted from Pruitt’s delays? You guessed it: also Pruitt campaign donors.

Pruitt has made it clear that his allegiances are not with the people of Oklahoma or of the rest of the nation, but with the corporations that fund his campaigns and that profit from decreased protections of our waters.

In fact, until now, Pruitt was best known for being the star of an embarrassing investigative report that revealed that he sent letters to numerous governmental agencies, including the EPA, the Department of Interior and the Office of Management and Budget, that were written not by Pruitt himself but by lawyers or lobbyists working for oil and gas companies. But, if we stand silent while Pruitt is confirmed as head of the EPA, his greatest claim to fame may come to be not that shameful report but the wholesale dismantling of protections that keep the waters we anglers obsess over—the rivers and streams where we chase our passions and pass them onto our children and grandchildren—safe from those who seek to profit from their destruction.

But we anglers won’t be fooled. We won’t be led by false and baseless claims that suggest that keeping our streams and rivers clean means losing jobs. We won’t be scared by ridiculous tales that tell us that the agency that has worked tirelessly for more than 40 years to protect our waters has a hidden agenda to rob everyday Americans of their personal property rights. We see through this administration’s agenda to undermine the laws that protect our fisheries and we reject Scott Pruitt and his appointment to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.


Thank You! It's important that fishers of every stripe recognize the danger at hand -- and make those calls today!

I live in North-Central Idaho, the reddest of the red states. I have watched sadly as we nearly destroyed our salmon and steelhead runs, as our governor reopened wolf hunting and as foreign investors push to reopen long inactive gold mines in our precious back country. I cannot imagine how a state that so prizes its natural resources can be so cavalier and short sighted about its future. Now this same callous attitude about our environmental resources has elected a new national leader. The the conifer forest outside my window is needed to provide the oxygen for cities to the east and the snow pack below is counted on to deliver water to the agricultural valleys to the south. For how many future generations can we count on this to occur without interruption by greed and exploitation? Our grandchildren and their grandchildren are waiting for us to write our legacy!

Get used to it ! Give him a chance.

This is over exaggerated, and irresponsible, but to be clear, this is your opinion. Our government is so large that the process to get someone to hear a concern is almost impossible to crack. Your own concerns can be answered very simply with, it is not, and will not get any better. It always amazes me the "voices" of reason on environmental issues such as Yvon Chouinard are such hero's of conservatism and environmental issues. I am very impressed with Patagonia and Chouinard is very inspirational to a way to life. However he charges ridiculous prices and makes millions traveling the world telling politicians what to do, and his followers how to live. He keeps saying that he wants to just live off the land in Patagonia some day. What's stopping him? Well it works like this, people and companies like Patagonia, Politicians past and present, and Fly shops and guides from around the country spread know it all nonsense and make a ton of money from it not fixing a thing. People like them, and of course all human beings are destroying the planet, but people like Yvon like to say we somehow control cold fronts and warm fronts wind, rain etc... and of course its Trumps fault.

Well said. The National Wildlife Federation is asking Senators from both parties to reject a cabinet nominee for the first time in 80 years, and we should listen to them.

I am old enough to remember the state of our waterways in some many parts of the country pre-1972 Clean Water Act and seen firsthand the improvement in so many of those same degraded waters. I do not want a return to the "good ole days". Not sure why so many discount the success of the Clean Water Act. Pay attention to history. It is a lot easier and cheaper to prevent degradation/pollution than correct or mitigate. I live in a state, New Hampshire, that is very dependent on tourism centered around the outdoors. A degraded environment would directly affect the economy here. Fewer tourists means fewer jobs, lower property values and a lower quality of life for my fellow residents. When I encounter individuals that say we need to reduce our environmental regulations I ask if their property or lake they enjoy was going to be potentially impacted by a proposed project would they be ok and the universal response is no. I then note they need to be concerned about everything not just in their backyard. The reality is that everyone needs to pay attention and do some research to understand the issues, not rely on their media outlet of choice alone. Be informed!


Get off your hi horse. Personally, I think you mean well. I hope you do. My concern is that you are pushing the progressive agenda. Your lively hood is partially dependent on Gov't grants where you are employed (Rutgers).

I'm a conservationists. I fish as do a LOT of conservatives. You are not our voice. My undergraduate degree was in fisheries and wildlife biology. I practice catch and release. But, I am NOT a "sky is falling" progressive liberal who is proposing Gov't redistribution of wealth in the name of " Climate change".

Give me a break! Tell me exactly what you propose to slow or mitigate our supposed affect on "Climate change"? Other than a carbon tax? Think China or India are going to comply? Thought not. Your response is welcome.

Your articles is so over the top it's hard to tell if you're a satirist or just delusional. You fear big this and big that, but warmly embrace Big Government. There are a lot of people that enjoy fishing just as much as you and care about the environment but can't afford every new $1,000 or more setup that comes along. They won't be able to afford a Zebco 33 setup if the EPA chokes the life out of industry.
You have no sense of history. Things are much better than they were 50 years ago, but according to you we are on the brink of disaster.
You're just a progressive masquerading as a conservationist.

I would say to Anti Shmuk and Joe Him, why do you have to assume that everyone who is opposed to Pruitt is a "progressive." Stop pigeon-holing people and using labels as arguments. Conservation should be above politics. This country is smart enough and rich enough to have clean air, clean water and plenty of jobs and energy. As others have pointed out, it's cheaper and smarter to prevent pollution than it is to clean it up. Plus, once you ruin a fishery it can take years to restore it, and that is not only a loss to sportsmen, but a financial loss to those communities that depend on outdoor recreation for their livelihoods.

Wow....... way overexaggerated, and really off the mark. I really disagree with this entire article.
In the past 8 years our government has failed miserably to be responsible and proactive when it comes to managing our waters and natural resources for the benefit of hunters and fisherman. In fact it has been obvious that they would prefer we as sportsman don't use public lands and waters at all. I welcome the change, and I am very optimistic that sportsman as a whole will no longer be viewed as the enemy.
Again, I'm very disappointed in the rhetoric in this article and will mention that it's definitely not the tone I hear when spending time with others who love to fish.