middle fork Outdoors Sept. 16-01.JPG

The Middle Fork of the Boise River runs east from the southern portion of the Sawtooths past Atlanta until it meets the North Fork near Idaho City. Photographed here on Aug. 17, 2020.

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BOISE — High-profile outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia last week joined an Idaho Conservation League lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Idaho Conservation League has joined with the Sierra Club, the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance in western Washington, and Mi Familia Vota, a Latino-focused national voter participation group, in suing the EPA over concerns about water quality.

“The Trump administration issued a new version earlier this year of the Waters of the United States rule, and we feel it is far less protective than the existing rule,” said Marie Callaway Kellner, conservation program director for the Idaho Conservation League. Currently, neither a 2015 rule change nor the Trump administration’s rule are the law of the land; with the litigation and attempts to repeal the laws, a rule that was in place in 2008 is actually governing waters in the United States.

“We are very concerned because this latest version of the rule lessens the acknowledgement that there is a connection between ground and surface water because it takes away some of the protections for what can be discharged into groundwater,” Kellner said. “It’s our drinking water, it’s where we recreate, it’s aquatic habitat.”

The litigation is both complicated and ongoing, she said, but Patagonia’s recent decision to file as an intervenor in the lawsuit is a welcome addition to their fight — and a welcome surprise, said Kellner, who didn’t know Patagonia had intervened until days after the filing.

The lawsuit is in its early stages in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and the federal government is looking to block Patagonia’s filing as an intervenor. So while Patagonia’s legal intervention is a positive in the Idaho Conservation League’s eyes as well as a definite attention-grabber, throwing its weight behind the lawsuit won’t help move it forward before the presidential election. And Kellner believes the election will have a major influence on whether the lawsuit moves forward at all.

“Depending on outcome of election, will determine how quickly things move after, or if they move at all,” Kellner said.

Patagonia has not responded to a request for comment from the Idaho Press.

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