It’s summer. Like every other summer, we humans enter the woods and are shocked to find that bears live there. Forewarned should be forearmed. Simply by carrying a can of bear spray with you when you go into the woods and following other commonsense advice, you will never need to fear bears again.
One incident in particular is garnering significant attention. While competing in a trail run outside Anchorage, Alaska, earlier this month 16-year-old Patrick Cooper texted a family member that he was being pursued by a black bear. By the time searchers found Cooper, he had been killed, and the bear was looming over his body. They shot the bear in the face with a shotgun slug, wounding it.
Like most tragedies, this one has become a canvas onto which various crackpots and special interests are painting their opinions. My favorite hot take has to be this one on the Truth About Guns, arguing that teenagers should pack heat while going on fun runs. “The runner was able and willing to carry a cellphone,” writes Dean Weingarten. “He could easily have carried a Ruger LCP II, which weighs about as much. Whether or not that would have been ‘enough gun’ for a black bear is not entirely germane. It would have given him a chance.”
Would carrying a small .380-caliber pistol have made a difference? A study of 269 bear encounters conducted in 2012 found that relying on a firearm (any firearm) as your primary line of defense gives you the same odds as carrying no defense whatsoever. Statistically speaking, Cooper was just as safe from bears running without a pistol as he would have been with one.
In contrast, that same study found bear spray successfully deters bears in 98 percent of studied encounters. Why is bear spray so much more effective? Well, it’s a combination of factors. Not only is the capsaicin mix incredibly powerful, capable of instantly incapacitating virtually any animal, but it also removes most of the human error from its application. Point the can in the general direction of the bear, push the button or pull the trigger, and a powerful stream of orange spray creates a huge cloud of blinding fog that hangs in the air. You don’t even have to hit the bear with that wide fan of spray—it works as a shield that’s also capable of stopping charging bears. You can use it in close quarters, you can use it if your buddy or dog is behind the bear, and you can even use it if it’s too dark to see. You can’t say any of that about a gun.
I’m reminded of the brown bear that mauled Montana man Todd Orr last year. He was armed with his heavy-caliber hunting revolver, but he was also armed with a great deal of experience in the outdoors. He chose to pull his spray instead of his gun. It didn’t work, but it also didn’t kill the mama bear, which he considered a success.
Just last weekend, I had to run a big black bear out of my camp.
That was a case of human error on my part. I know bears live in that particular area, because I plan to hunt them there this fall. And also because I'm pretty sure this same bear pulled the same trick, in the same spot five years ago, when he was a juvenile. I should have had my food in a bear canister, and I should have been carrying a can of bear spray, but I was so distracted by the effort of taking a new puppy on his first camping trip that I forgot all that. So instead of avoiding the issue altogether, or dealing with it easily and safely, I was left with the old fallback: shouting and waving my hands over my head.
There are a few points I’m trying to make here: 1) Bear attacks are exceptionally rare—more people in the United States are killed annually by bees than by bears. 2) Guns aren’t a great defense against the animals. 3) In the highly unlikely event that you are attacked by a bear, bear spray is so effective that your overall odds of being injured, let alone killed, are less likely than winning the lottery.
There’s also the ethical question raised by bear attacks and our response to them. Human conflict with bears occurs when we make the deliberate decision to enter the areas where they live and at times when they are active. No wild animal deserves to be killed just because you forgot to pack your bear spray.
When you make the decision to go into a bear’s habitat, it is also your responsibility to make the decision to carry bear spray.
Among the countless peaks around the world that have yet to be skied, one stands alone in prestige and allure: the 28,251-foot K2. The reasons it remains unskied are many—fatal exposure on much of the route, notoriously harsh weather, an oxygen shortage—but they do not include a lack of interest.
Over the past 25 years, a handful of the most accomplished steep skiers in history have tried to notch the first descent of K2—skiing off the summit and continuing uninterrupted as far as conditions allow back to base camp. All have failed. At least two, close friends and ski partners Michele Fait of Italy and Fredrik Ericsson of Sweden, died during their attempts. Fait fell while skiing low on the peak in 2009, and Ericsson fell near the summit during his ascent in 2010.
In recent weeks, two more aspirants began trekking into the Karakoram Range in northern Pakistan to try to notch the historic first descent, which could happen anytime from mid-July through early August. One is Davo Karnicar, a 54-year-old father of seven from Slovenia who made the only complete ski descent of Mount Everest in October 2000, five years after he completed the first full descent of Annapurna with his younger brother, Drejc. The other is 29-year-old Andrzej Bargiel of Poland, who brings an impressive résumé of his own, having skied Shishapangma in 2013, Manaslu in 2014, and Broad Peak in 2015, the first complete descent of that mountain.
Though the two men do not know each other—and each is organizing his own expedition and support teams—their simultaneous attempts set the stage for a month of two-plankin’ intrigue unlike any in K2’s history.
Karnicar first attempted to ski K2 in 1993. But when a storm blew away his unanchored skis at 25,900 feet, he aborted his climb despite still feeling strong enough to summit. He has thought about the peak ever since, waiting for someone to ski it, wondering if he should return. Before he left for Pakistan, Karnicar said he wants to ski K2 for everyone who has failed, especially those who perished. “Each try to ski, each experience on the mountain, because of them I’m much closer,” he said. “We don’t know each other, but we are like one group with the same wish.”
Bargiel, meanwhile, observed K2 from Broad Peak in 2015 and says that he views it as “a next step” in his ski career, which began with skimo races in Poland and advanced to 8,000-meter peak expeditions starting in 2012. Both he and Karnicar dismiss any notion that they will compete for the first descent. “Safety is number one, and I believe we’re going to work together instead of everyone on his own,” Bargiel says. “Davo is very experienced, and I’m really looking forward to talk with him and share opinion on how to approach K2.”
Among those who have made past attempts, Hans Kammerlander may have come the closest to skiing K2, in 2001. The brash Italian claimed to have skied off the summit for a few hundred feet before witnessing a Korean climber fall to his death in fading light, at which point he took off his skis and downclimbed the rest of the route. (Though some doubt his claim.) Two of the most recent attempts, by Connecticut-born ski patroller Dave Watson, in 2009, and German mountain guide Luis Stitzinger, in 2011, came tantalizingly close in their own rights. Watson was in position to summit with a handful of other climbers, but after ascending just 150 vertical feet in four hours due to deep snow, the group turned around. Watson skied the infamous Bottleneck—the first person on record to do so—from about 700 feet below the summit.
“Every turn was a crux,” Watson recalls. “I would throw a turn and be skidding to a stop, and while I was skidding to a stop, I’d feel the power leaving my body. I had black dots swirling around in my eyes, and I was hyperventilating, trying to catch my breath.”
Stitzinger also turned around shy of the summit due to bad weather. He skied from 26,400 feet and continued almost without interruption to the Abruzzi Glacier, downclimbing only a 700-foot section of steep ice and rock near Camp 3. Both Watson and Stitzinger believe the Cesen Route, which follows a precipitous south-southeast ridge from the Shoulder down, on the peak’s south side, allows for the best chance at an uninterrupted ski descent. Karnicar intends to follow that line, while Bargiel says he may combine it with portions of the nearby Polish Route, an über-exposed line on the south face, depending upon snow coverage. The Cesen includes a rock band just above Camp 2 that could require a detour through some couloirs that Stitzinger estimates are 55 degrees.
Karnicar, whose primary sponsor is the Slovenian shopping-mall conglomerate Tus, will have a small team, including one friend to help fix ropes to Camp 3 and four Pakistani high-altitude porters, three of whom have summited K2. Bargiel’s team includes three climbing partners and a video production crew, with much of his financial support coming from the Polish Mercedes dealership Sobieslaw Zasada.
As with any major expedition, optimism reigns in advance of the men’s attempts. But it is also tinged with caution—from the skiiers, as well as those who grasp the task at hand.
“I hope they will not risk too much,” Stitzinger says. “K2 really is a maneater.”
For more than 30 years, I’ve been a full-time environmental activist. I’ve been arrested more than a dozen times—three of them on purpose—written dozens of books about the natural world, served on activist boards of half a dozen conservation organizations, spent what feels like a tenth of my life in public meetings. I’ve been threatened and even shot at. I have fought against global warming, the gutting of the Endangered Species Act, the Mining Act, dams, road building—there’s never an end to the fights. For as long as one cares about beauty, there will never be an end to them. And where I live, in the nearly pristine Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, the overriding issue is always forestry practices.
Our little group, the Yaak Valley Forest Council, defends a million acres. We’re the frontline of defense against the destruction of the Endangered Species Act. We have only 20 grizzlies left in our valley, yet the state legislature has passed a resolution seeking to delist—and allow hunting—all the grizzlies in Montana. The Kootenai National Forest is being clearcut again, violating the Forest Plan so regularly that it doesn’t even look like Swiss cheese—it just looks like nothing: spindled, mutilated. At Rock Creek, Hecla Mining Company has proposed a copper and silver mine in the wilderness that will drain alpine lakes, with proponents claiming that wilderness is only skin deep, that the water in a wilderness is not wild, that the rocks themselves—the geology of the wilderness—is not wild.
Our group’s battles sometimes seem small compared to what’s happening in the broader world: the stripping of protective regulations to allow unfettered corporate liquidation of public resources, a skewing of the courts, the revision of Senate rules to a mere 51-vote majority, and the retreat by a president ever deeper into the unaccountability of shadows and more lies. In an age when every fight is local, people ask me: What do we do, locally, individually?
I have a few ideas.
Get Ready to Fight
To be a successful activist is to be a combination of lucky and good. My own experience has been that no work is ever wasted. That if you go to the mat, if you keep pushing hard enough and long enough, then one small thing will shift and you’ll get the break you need. A moderate Republican will switch parties; a lone Democratic representative will fight for you on the House floor. A rogue Forest Service supervisor will be transferred; a monstrous timber sale will fall through at the last minute due to market volatilities. You never know. You always have to play it out. You can never give up, even when you are beaten.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
To be an activist in the time of Trump is to know rage in every cell of your body. And to know rage is to know, soon enough, the cumulative disempowerment of paralysis and burnout. One does not consider one’s self beaten but lies down nonetheless to nap. Any first-year psychology student will reflexively trot out the hoary bromide that one cannot take care of the world unless one takes care of one’s self.
In these troubled times we all—artists and non-artists, activists and non-activists—need solace and balm. Balance is a weak and ridiculous word, abstract to the point of powerlessness. When scales balance, they are static, and life, by definition, is not static. So it’s best not to think in terms of trying to balance one’s life as an activist, but instead to be mindful of the need for repair.
Find Your Tribe
You cannot go it alone. You need a clan, a band, a core. My two greatest mentors are also two of my greatest friends—Doug Peacock and Terry Tempest Williams. Doug is 15 years my senior; Terry only two years older, though it feels to me we are all the same age, for this is how it is in war. The bullet does not care. Doug and Terry are wonderful writers, and they know how and when to use that talent—but they know how to put the pen down and work to motivate others in person. They know how to obsess on a problem and come up with strategies and tactics that connect what few dots might exist on a wandering path to victory, or, as David Brower and others have put it, necessary perpetual defense.
Doug’s mentor was Edward Abbey, of course, though they were often more like brothers. And Doug has written, “I take my strength from the Greek myth of Antaeus, who derived his power solely from all four paws fiercely gripping the earth.” I have learned from Doug how to be passionate—joyous but also angry.
Three of Terry’s many mentors were Margaret Murie, Rachel Carson, and Wallace Stegner—the latter the author of the magnificent “Coda: Wilderness Letter.” Terry tells the story about a time when she and some other wilderness advocates worked on a manifesto for the Wilderness Society that was to be published in the New York Times as a response to the first President Bush’s environmental policies. They thought it was visionary, immense, bold. They flew out to California to show it to Stegner and placed it on his desk with great anticipation. He took his glasses off, looked up at them, and said, “That’s it?”
Step Away from the Fight—At Least Sometimes
In recent months, I find myself for the first time counterbalancing the incandescent rage with the almost narcoleptic and trivial—an instinctive response to red-lining. I listen to Sirius NFL Radio on satellite radio. The mindless, insignificant soap opera drama of each day’s events washes over me like a balm. It’s like lying in a cold stream on a hot day. It’s like the tinkle of ice cubes in a gin and tonic in July on a porch in the high country, when the days are long and you have put in a full day of good work and your side is winning and there is still, amazingly, time left in the day for whatever your heart desires.
Where is the peace, the beauty, that we seek to preserve? How far down into that clean blue lake must one plunge, each day, and how hard is it to then kick back up to the surface from such an ever-deepening depth? As the struggle becomes greater, the distance back up to the top becomes greater, which means we must somehow take greater care of ourselves and one another.
I show our staff at the Yaak Valley Forest Council the individual creeks and mountains and how they all fit together; the comings and goings of the animals, so many of which are endangered. It takes a long time for the pieces to come together, for a fluency of place to take root in your heart, and then in your mind. In the meantime, what to teach? Passion and never-giving-up-ness. It is the fuel you most need. What else?
Pacing. Creativity. Inspiration. Learning pace comes from being down in the weeds, locally. Creativity and imagination come from simply daring, from playing to win. If you’re going to pour your life into a thing—your one life—shouldn’t you try to maximize the fruits of that labor and be as bold as you possibly can?
Remember What You’re Fighting For
We fight the tar sands routes that would supply megaloads of immense machinery to Alberta, and we fight the Keystone XL pipeline, which would cut off an ear of Montana. We fight Warren Buffet’s coal shipments from the Tongue River Valley to Asia, designed to get China hooked on coal by giving them coal so dirty it’s illegal to burn even in our lax country. We fight an epic clusterfuck by the Forest Service, a goofy-ass recreational hiking trail, a section of the Pacific Northwest Trail, that’s proposed to route through the upper part of the Yaak Valley, destroying designated (and legally mandated) core grizzly habitat for the last 20 grizzlies that hold on here.
The proposed route would force the Forest Service to close dozens of miles of open logging roads on the Kootenai National Forest, endangering not just those last 20 grizzlies—only two, maybe three of which are breeding-age females—but also jeopardizing logging sales, a boondoggle and impending train wreck of the sort of which it seems only the Forest Service is capable. And oh yeah, we have our own border and illegal immigration issues. The proposed trail route would skate along the northern border, luring in more than 4,000 permitted hikers annually, and who knows how many illegally, bumping into drug smugglers and human traffickers and rendering the Border Patrol’s efforts totally ineffective, while also promising to deliver a thoroughly unsatisfying wildland experience to thru-hikers.
I live in one of the youngest places on earth, younger than even the Galapagos. It will be Montana’s sanctuary ecosystem for the ecological refugees of the future—grizzlies and otters, orchids and sundews, three-toed woodpeckers and the slender dying breath of glaciers. And our little ragtag community service group is working to protect as wilderness the last 14 roadless areas—each one a garden of Eden, providing a gold standard of ecological integrity and stability.
We all know we must take our country back. That is no longer the question. The question is how. The country has been stolen from us, it is being carpet-bombed, while we stand up and stare, slack-jawed, at the skies. The country is in smoking ruins, and we walk through the smoke, blinking and rubbing our eyes and doing what we can, but our Facebook postings are not getting the job done, and Citizens United is allowing them to outspend us.
Fury—the foundation of rage—is all we have to our advantage in these hard days. The old men of the Trump regime are fleeing the battle zone with heavy satchels in each hand, loaded with bullion and cash. Serpents flicker from their mouths as they pant and laugh. Maggots writhe in the cavities where their hearts should have been. We are no longer under siege or surrounded. We are in hand-to-hand combat, and we must take our country back in every breath, every day, every moment.
We have to mind the words of Thomas Merton, who said that the frenzy of the activist is a kind of violence unto itself, in that it destroys the inner peace of the individual. We have to mind also the words of Wendell Berry, who speaks of how, when despair for the world grows too great within him, he goes down “into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” (Though remember that this is the same Wendell Berry who handcuffed himself to the desk of the governor of Kentucky to protest global warming.)
We must find vehicles, reservoirs, vessels for our rage and humiliation. We must bring pride back to our country and its name. We must compress our rage to focal points, eliminate the criminal upon which it falls, and then move on to the next point.
We must take care of ourselves, and we must spend ourselves.
No one knows what’s coming. Only that we must meet the enemy in the middle of the field, or further in. That there can, and will, be no retreat.
A lot of what you need to know about the hunt for Forrest Fenn’s treasure is in the numbers, but the numbers are pretty fuzzy. We know there’s one poem, written by Fenn, containing nine clues that—correctly deciphered—lead to a bronze chest containing gold and jewels worth perhaps two million dollars—but that’s a guess. No one really knows what it’s worth.
Nor do we know how many people have gone out looking for it. Fenn himself is the best source of hunter-numbers, and his figures vary widely: from 65,000 to 100,000 to 250,000. Whatever the real number of seekers, two of them have now died in pursuit and New Mexico Police Chief Pete Kessetas is calling for the hunt to end.
Randy Bilyeu disappeared in January 2016 and his body turned up in July of that year. Paris Wallace was found on June 18, just four days after his family reported him missing. Both men were in their 50s, traveling alone near rivers in New Mexico. Wallace’s family called it “God’s plan,” Bilyeu’s ex-wife Linda told The Associated Press that “only one man has the power to stop the madness.” Meaning Fenn.
In fact, over the last week, as once-fawning media coverage turned critical of his seven-year-old stunt, Fenn said that he was rethinking the chase and was considering calling it off but “had not decided either way.”
The two deaths are undeniable tragedies, but calling off the hunt would be a mistake. Whether you’re hunting for treasure or backcountry powder stashes or monster trout on remote streams, there’s some risk anytime you go outside. And assuming the rough accuracy of Fenn’s middle hunter-number, treasure hunting is not much more dangerous than walking down the street in an American city (1.6 deaths per 100,000).
If you compare treasure deaths to outdoor sports, it resembles SCUBA diving (roughly 2 per 70,000) and American football (2 per 100,000). Surfers die at about the same rate, too, but mostly tourists (2.38 per 100,000), not locals (0.28 per 100,000).
The problem with these comparisons, however, is that none factor in the psychology of treasure hunting. The unavoidable rush of thinking you’re on the right track. Gold fever. Police Chief Kassetas said the hunt has “created an environment where people are making poor decisions.”
This is true on many fronts. The hunt can be addictive and life consuming. It has ruined marriages and emptied retirement accounts. But more than poor decisions, treasure hunting imposes a different logic on the wilderness; it changes priorities. Would you cross that river? No? Would you cross it for a million dollars? I thought so.
That attitude has landed some people in trouble. Fenn treasure hunter Madilina Taylor, of Lynchburg, Virginia, prompted three search and rescue efforts in the same part of Wyoming in a span of four years. The first time she spent four days lost in the woods, the second time she broke her ankle. Still she went back again. After three days, her parked car drew searchers out looking for her. In 2015, Seattle treasure hunter Darrell Seyler, who I profiled for Outside in 2015, was arrested and banned from Yellowstone National Park after search and rescue teams picked him up from the banks of the Lamar River twice in two weeks. Because of the ban, Seyler was actively avoiding park rangers on his second trip, and tried to refuse rescue when they did show up.
And where a normal hiker would leave word with friends and family—or at least a note on the dashboard—treasure-focused trips are often shrouded in secrecy. With millions up for grabs, some hunters don’t leave good information on where they are going or their planned route for fear of someone poaching their interpretation of the clues.
Still, if you look at search and rescue numbers—and these stats are even fuzzier—treasure hunters don’t seem to initiate search-and-rescue operations any more frequently than other outdoor sports. By way of comparison, from 2005 to 2015 canyoneering in Zion National Park resulted in 221 search and rescue activations—just under two per month. Eleven people died canyoneering in that same time span. Treasure hunting can’t touch that.
A few days ago Fenn said—to almost no one’s surprise—that he wouldn’t be canceling the hunt. But he may issue some sort of clue or statement to make it safer. This would be in addition to the clues he’s already given and statements he’s already made—“The treasure is not in a dangerous place,” and “Don’t go somewhere an 80-year-old man couldn’t go.”
Fenn has also said previously that he devised the hunt “for every redneck out there with a pickup truck, six kids, just lost his job, his wife, and lacks adventure.” The original idea behind the treasure hunt, he says, was to get people outside, off their screens, into nature.
But send enough people into the woods looking for adventure and some of them are going to perish. The sad message of these two deaths is that Fenn’s scheme seems to be working.
Everyone visualizes their “end of the world” scenario. For some it is the Wi-Fi being down for more than an hour, for others it is more serious, the stuff of biblical writings, history, stories, legends and movies ad nauseam, the article title here is from an ancient sci-fi movie.
So, what is your move in this situation: Rule of law is gone, you are hunkered down somewhere, with family and friends. Your turn to scout and during your patrol you are overtaken by several seriously armed and hungry men who want to take your stuff, shoot you and move on. What do you have left to bargain with? They already have what you were carrying. You have the promise of more food and supplies because these will become scarce quickly. How do you do this and minimize the danger to your group?
You do it by setting up small caches of food and water at increasing distances from your camp. Making the promise that there is more as well as clothing and equipment in other sites. You should have no more than three of these as even today’s college students will eventually catch on.
These are small quantities you all know about that you can “give up” as you bring them closer to your camp, and your sentry with the FN SCAR® 17S with the Trijicon TA11E ACOG 3.5×35 Scope. Betting your life that he (or she – I have been to an Israeli Kibbutz) is alert and sighting in. You have noticed in zombie movies and TV shows that the uninfected are just as dangerous as the infected, right? And you do know that there will be no real zombies, other than maybe the occasional former government officials roaming around in circles looking for handouts. As a pepper, you better have absorbed these fact, and purged the myth of the old Western movies that when strangers approach your camp fire they are simply seeking some of that coffee you made using an old gym sock, or worse, as a filter. Of course, the world is full of good people with pure intentions! Your ability to determine this in a split second becomes a life and death choice in a world gone dark.
Making a zone around your site, with clear views of the easy approach routes, and putting in the small stashes is just good planning. Think this is “out there”? Coyotes (Coyotaje) do it all along the Southwest border for the reverse reasons, and they include weapons in case they lose theirs along the way.
A final thought. You will have a turn as sentry. Could you pull the trigger? I don’t need to know that answer but you and your family and friends do.
On Tuesday, June 27, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it’s getting ready to roll back the Clean Water Rule. “We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, in a news release that confirmed the EPA’s move to get rid of the rule. The announcement prompted an immediate and harsh response from environmental groups. But what exactly is the Clean Water Rule, and how will rescinding it change things?
What It Is
The rule was introduced in 2015 by the Obama administration. It was meant to clarify the 1972 Clean Water Act, which was hazy about whether some waters—particularly seasonal streams and wetlands—fell under the EPA’s regulatory authority. The Clean Water Rule allowed for all “navigable waters” to be included under the Clean Water Act, extending protection to the drinking sources of nearly a third of the U.S. population.
Why the EPA Is Overturning It
Pruitt’s announcement follows the executive order penned by President Donald Trump at the end of February calling for a review of the regulation. “The EPA’s so-called ‘Waters of the United States’ rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation, and it has truly run amok, and is one of the rules most strongly opposed by farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers all across our land,” Trump said during the signing. “The EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land or anyplace else that they decide.”
That executive order suggested revising the Clean Water Rule to fit within the late Justice Scalia’s interpretation, as the February executive order recommends. If that happens, pollution safeguards would be dismantled for all streams unless they are considered to be “relatively permanent.” This means seasonal or rainwater-dependent streams, as well as some wetlands, would lose protection.
How It Will Change Things
The move won’t technically change current practice in the United States, as Obama’s rule has been stuck in a federal appeals court since October 2015 and was never fully implemented. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see an impact down the road. “It’s going to affect the places that hunters and anglers use,” says Melinda Kassen, interim director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Water Resources. “If you think about going up any mountain canyon and fishing streams that are not in national parks or wilderness areas, those are the sorts of streams where you could now have development—bulldozers pushing soil around, unearthing metals, and potentially putting pollutants into streams.”
Why Outdoor Recreationists Should Care
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this could mean the loss of pollution protections for almost 60 percent of streams in the lower 48 that don’t flow year-round. To put that in context, both San Francisco and Denver receive more than 58 percent of their drinking water from those streams.
“From an outdoor industry perspective, it’s biting the hand that feeds you to pollute these tiny little streams,” says Kassen. “They don’t necessarily run all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re not great habitat. Sixty percent of water [in the United States] is in those tiny little headwaters, and even though each one individually doesn’t look so important, if we’re going to have clean water in the bigger streams, that starts with the little ones. If you don’t protect the small streams, you don’t protect the larger system.”
Wetlands span some 110 million acres across the United States, providing critical habitat for fish and wildlife and aiding in filtration of contaminated runoff and groundwater storage. Headwaters and other streams are a big playground, too. A report by the Outdoor Industry Association found that recreationists spend more than $86 billion annually on watersports, which helps explain why 80 percent of voters support the rule. During the EPA public comment period in 2014, more than one million comments were received—87 percent of which were in support.