Weekly Columns

Utilizing our natural resources is a way of life for Arkansans. Citizens of the Natural State have set a good example for stewardship of the environment because we understand our agriculture and outdoor recreation industries are dependent on our ability to sustain and protect our land and water. We need simple, commonsense rules that allow us to preserve these resources. 

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) accomplished that and achieved certainty and predictability for farmers, ranchers and landowners. This Trump-era regulation clearly and reasonably defines the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and protects our waters without eroding the rights of landowners to use their property. It restored the appropriate balance between federal and state authority and reflected the congressional intent behind the Clean Water Act with a practical approach to water quality protection. Just as importantly, it had widespread support among farmers, ranchers and landowners. 

On day one of his presidency, President Biden signed an executive order essentially beginning to roll back this rule. In June, the administration announced its intent to repeal the NWPR. This action empowers the federal government to again expand its authority over what’s done on private land. 

Landowners have expressed their concerns about this reversal because they’ve experienced the painful uncertainty and inconsistency that resulted from the one-size-fits-all approach the NWPR replaced. The previous rule was onerous, costly and unfair. It put bureaucrats in Washington in a position to control ditches, ponds and puddles on private land in Arkansas and all across the country. 

Attempts to revive this bad policy now will result in similar consequences and threaten the already fragile economic recovery by adding another burden on our farmers and ranchers who are already facing challenging production conditions. 

We all agree that we need clean water, but the administration’s effort to reformulate the WOTUS rule is more about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land. It is not about finding the most responsible and workable way to protect our water. 

State and local governments can be trusted to protect waters within their jurisdiction. There is no question that experts at these levels of government will be more successful than federal oversight by unelected bureaucrats sitting behind their desks in Washington. 

We have a responsibility to ensure America’s water is clean and to create policies to maintain the safety and reliability of this precious resource for the future, which is why I’ve always supported sound policies that protect our environment in a way that respects and upholds the rights of citizens. 

The NWPR successfully balances the needs of landowners while simultaneously protecting our land and water. I will continue working with my colleagues to prevent attempts to overreach and hold the administration accountable to ensure regulations written by federal agencies do not infringe on farmers, ranchers and landowners.   

As I spend the coming days with Arkansas agricultural producers during my annual Agriculture Tour, I will be assuring them that I will continue to be a reliable advocate for our family farms and oppose policies that hinder their ability to use their land in a responsible and sustainable manner.