(March 24, 2023) This week, a surprise amendment aimed at further reducing protections of wetlands in Indiana was added to Senate Bill 414, an unrelated bill that deals with storage of residential sewage. The Bill was amended during a House Environmental Affairs committee hearing Wednesday to loosen restrictions on how wetlands are classified.
Today, Brian Vigue, Freshwater Policy Director for Audubon Great Lakes issued the following statement in response to this amendment, which would rollback wetlands protections across Indiana.
“Indiana ranks fourth among states with the greatest loss of wetlands with 85 percent of its original wetlands already gone. The surprise amendment that was added to Senate Bill 414 would further strip wetlands protections – a huge step backwards for Hoosiers, birds and other wildlife that depend on this vital natural resource.
Healthy and abundant wetlands provide tremendous value to Indiana. Wetlands help reduce flooding by storing excess storm water, and keep our waters clean by filtering harmful pollution before water reaches our lakes, rivers and streams. These important natural spaces also provide critical habitat for vulnerable birds like the Virginia Rail, Least Bittern, and Pied-billed Grebe – some of which are facing population declines up to 80 percent. Wetlands are also good for business and help support Indiana’s outdoor recreation economy, which generates more than $15 billion in consumer spending a year.
This amendment is out of step with the concerns of everyday Hoosiers, who have made it loud and clear that they want to see their legislators strengthen wetlands protections, not weaken them. Recently Audubon Great Lakes released findings from an Indiana state-wide poll, which found that Indiana residents across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support wetlands protections. This amendment also comes on the heels of a report from the Indiana Wetlands Taskforce, which emphasized the need to do more to protect Indiana’s wetlands.
It’s time for Indiana’s legislators and decision makers to listen to the concerns of leading experts and residents by strengthening wetlands protections in the state, not weakening them. On behalf of Indiana’s birds, wildlife and 25,000 members in Indiana, Audubon urges the Indiana House to remove the wetland language or oppose this legislation.”
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.