David McEllis

Stepping up Post-Sackett: An Illinois Bill to Protect Wetlands

After the U.S. Supreme Court rolled back Clean Water Act protections, it fell to states to fill the gaps. A new Illinois bill would protect our critical wetlands.

In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court made a disastrous decision for the environment, when they severely curtailed the waterways covered under the federal Clean Water Act. In the Sackett vs EPA decision, the Court diminished the federal authority to protect wetlands nationwide. Other Midwestern states had state wetlands laws they could fall back on, but Illinois does not have a standalone state wetlands program. ELPC convened with our environmental and conservation partners to call for change. Last week, the Illinois Senate introduced SB3669, and the House introduced HB5386 to protect our critically important wetlands.

Read the factsheet

Importance of Wetlands

The science is clear. Wetlands provide a host of critical ecological services – soaking up floodwaters, recharging groundwater, storing carbon, providing wildlife habitat, filtering water, and holding polluted runoff. The Great Lakes, our Midwest rivers, and many of our drinking water supplies depend on healthy wetlands as well. In the Great Lakes region, we have already lost two thirds of the wetlands we once had, and Illinois has lost 90%, so it is critically important to protect those we have left.

What the New Bill Would Do

SB3669/HB5386 was introduced in February 2024 by State Senator Laura Ellman and State Representative Anna Moeller to create a state wetlands program. The bill is designed to fill the regulatory gap created by the Sackett decision. This proposal seeks to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to wetlands and compensate for unavoidable harms through wetland mitigation.

Illinoisans get it. They care about safe drinking water and clean rivers and lakes. Nearly 75% of US voters in 2023 rated “pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams” as their top conservation issue. Regardless of their political affiliation, hunters and anglers nationwide strongly favor (92%) restoring Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and streams. It is time for the state legislature to step up and fill the gaps.

On March 5th, after a press conference announcing the effort publicly, the bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We look forward to more conversations with lawmakers to move this forward and protect clean water and wetlands across Illinois.

David McEllis,

Illinois Legislative Director

David McEllis is the Illinois Legislative Director at ELPC, working on current Illinois energy legislative issues.

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