Happy Birthday Wild and Scenic Rivers!
Happy Birthday to America’s Best Rivers!
October 2nd marks the 40th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which thankfully makes this great law older than I am. The passage of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 established one of our nation’s strongest conservation tools for rivers.
A year earlier in 1967, in his testimony in a Senate hearing on the Wild and Scenic Rivers bill then Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall noted:
“When the conservation history of our country is written, this will be one of the great landmarks.”
Enactment of the law signified a fundamental shift in the way we Americans value rivers. For the first time in our nation’s history we formally embraced conservation of rivers for their inherent unique qualities.
As you may know the law provides lasting protection for our best rivers, their free-flowing qualities and outstandingly remarkable values for the benefit of present and future generations.
Communities have been calling for Wild and Scenic River protection for our nation’s most outstanding and highly-prized rivers for four decades. Since American Rivers was founded in 1973 to seek additional Wild and Scenic River designations, we have partnered with these communities to champion Wild and Scenic River protection. Today the Wild and Scenic Rivers System includes more than 11,000 miles of a growing list of over 165 rivers in 38 states.
Public land and waters protection, including Wild and Scenic designations, remain at the core of American Rivers river protection efforts. In fact there has been a recent resurgence of local groups who are advocating for Wild and Scenic designation for their rivers. The National Park Service’s Nationwide Rivers Inventory lists of 3,400 rivers nationwide that are deserving of Wild and Scenic protection.
Overall American Rivers is currently advocating for more than a dozen bills that would protect over 100 river segments in ten states across the country. These include the efforts to protect the Snake Headwaters bill in Wyoming and the campaign to protect the rivers flowing off of Mt. Hood in Oregon. While these protections have been held up by election year politics we anticipate that these protections will pass Congress next session.
On behalf of leaders like Senators Frank Church, Gaylord Nelson, and even Mark Hatfield, on behalf of John and Frank Craighead, on behalf of the great groups like Pacific Rivers Council , Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Study Committee, and Friends of the White Salmon, and finally on behalf of the Claude Terry and Mike Fremont’s of the world (a couple of the founders of American Rivers in case you didn’t know) let me humbly wish the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act a happy and healthy 40th birthday!