New Poll Proves Protecting America’s Waterways is Good Policy and Politics
A new poll commissioned by the nation’s leading environmentalists and sportsmen organizations in key Great Lakes and Rocky Mountain states shows that the public overwhelmingly supports an Obama administration proposal to restore protections for America’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.
The poll confirms that—across party lines and in all age groups—voters demand clean water for safe drinking water and oppose the pollution of places where their families fish and swim. This poll comes at a time when the Obama administration is set to finalize its Clean Water Act guidance, yet the House majority is preparing to ignore the will of the public and instead continue dirty water politics.
Three-quarters (75 percent) of the likely voters surveyed in Ohio and nearly seven in ten (67 percent) Colorado respondents support the president’s proposal to restore clean water safeguards, with support strong across political affiliations.
The poll was released as the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on the House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 5325) next week. The bill includes a provision to block the president from restoring critical clean water protections. However, the poll’s findings indicate that blocking those protections could be a political dead end for many in Congress. Two-thirds of Ohioans and Coloradoans (66 percent) say they would feel more favorable toward their representative if he or she supported the restoration of clean water protections, including more than 60 percent of independents in both states.
“The voters' message is clear: we want our water to be clean and safe and we support restoring Clean Water Act protections to achieve this,” said Jay Campbell, vice president for Hart Research Associates. “Their support is extraordinary in both its depth and its breadth. Given the contentiousness we see on nearly every issue, when you have an idea that large majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats all agree on you know you have something that is both good policy and good politics.”
The poll was conducted in urban, suburban and rural areas in Colorado and Ohio. Major findings of the poll include:
- There is extensive support in Colorado and Ohio for restoring clean water protections. Not only is this support more intense than the opposition, but also it is shared broadly across party lines.
- Supporting clean water protections can be a winning political issue for both Congress and the president.
- Messages in favor of the proposal to restore clean water protections are much stronger than arguments in opposition to the proposal.
(The full summary of the poll’s findings can be found here.)
“From fishing in the Great Lakes to kayaking on the Colorado River, this poll is further proof that protecting our waterways is enormously popular and important,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “Unfortunately many of the waterways we love and cherish still are inadequately protected. It’s time for President Obama to stand up for our waterways and finalize these critical protections.”
“We have no time to waste if we hope to protect our valuable streams and wetlands and the billions of dollars in economic activity that hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation around our nation’s waterways generate every year,” said National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger.
"Rivers and streams supply most of our drinking water. Their protection is vital to the health of our families and communities,” said Wm. Robert Irvin, president of American Rivers. “It is time for Congress and the administration to restore clean water protections that benefit our public health, economy, wildlife and recreation. If we want healthy communities, we need healthy rivers.”
“These findings make one thing clear: The American people expect our elected leaders to protect our rivers, streams and drinking water—and they’ll remember who took their side on this issue,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “It’s time Congress listened, stopped the obstructions, and acted quickly to restore these critical protections that keep our waterways and our families healthy.”
“It is no surprise that Americans overwhelmingly support protecting our nation’s waterways,” said the League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski. “It is past time that our elected officials act to protect the network of rivers and streams that provide safe drinking water to millions and safe areas for fishing and swimming.”
“The streams and wetlands at issue here are vital parts of our nation’s water infrastructure because they filter pollution, prevent floods and affect the drinking water of over 117 million Americans. Clarifying protection for these vulnerable water bodies is an important step forward,” said Clean Water Action President Robert Wendelgass.
“Preventing pollution of the nation’s waters will better protect Americans’ health,” said Frances Beinecke, president of NRDC. “People want safe places to swim and fish. They want reliable drinking water supplies and natural barriers against flooding. This poll shows that they expect leaders in Washington to support policies that safeguard our waters. That’s true in Colorado and Ohio, and it’s true all across our country.”
“Our waters are where our families swim, fish, and where we get our drinking water, so it’s no surprise that this poll shows that Americans are overwhelmingly demanding strong clean water protections,” said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel of Earthjustice. “For the American people, unlike our Congress, politics vanish when it comes to protecting their communities’ waterways, because Americans want safe, swimmable, fishable, drinkable waters for themselves and their families.”
The findings of this poll echo the immense public support these protections have consistently enjoyed across the country, from more than 200,000 concerned citizens, more than 450 elected officials, hundreds of sportsmen organizations, more than 140 local farmers, dozens of recreational businesses, and many more.
The poll was commissioned by American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Clean Water Network, Earthjustice, Environment America, the Izaak Walton League of America, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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