Has The Log Jam Been Broken? Wild & Scenic River Legislation Passed The U.S. Senate.

Looking up the Pratt River along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River | © Thomas O'Keefe

Looking up the Pratt River along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River | © Thomas O’Keefe

In a rare burst of activity in the evening hours of June 19th, the U.S. Senate passed 14 wilderness, river and energy bills including Wild and Scenic River legislation for the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as well as Illabot Creek in Washington and Wasson and Franklin Creeks in Oregon. I nearly fell off my chair when I heard the news. I had to pinch myself to be sure I was awake. Yep, I was awake all right!

Why is this so significant you may be wondering? Well, Congress has not passed any Wilderness or Wild and Scenic River legislation since 2009 and Wednesday evening’s actions could very well have broken the log jam of bills that have been stacking up over the past several years. Passage in the Senate brings these important pieces of legislation one step closer to enactment.

If you’ve never been to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, you must go! Few rivers anywhere in the country can match the quality of recreational, scenic, and ecological resources that the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and its major tributary the Pratt River provide, especially when you consider their proximity to a major urban area. Only a 45 minute drive from Seattle and you’ll find yourself along the stunning banks of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, adorned by a Sitka spruce forest. Sitkas are the largest of the spruce trees in the world and can only be found in a fairly narrow strip along North America’s Pacific Coast stretching from southeast Alaska to the northern tip of California.

Whether it’s a quiet fishing trip after work or rafting, kayaking or canoeing Class II to IV whitewater or a weekend campout with friends and family, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers are a tremendous resource to Puget Sound communities. They are an important source for clean water and they sustain the culturally and biologically significant fishery resources of the Snohomish River system.

Illabot Creek is a key tributary of the Skagit River and a very special haven for two of the Northwest’s beloved icons – salmon and eagles. The creek provides exceptional spawning and rearing habitat for summer and fall Chinook, Coho, and pink salmon. Illabot is also home to native steelhead and one of the largest populations of bull trout in the Skagit watershed. Due to the large number of salmon and the high quality old-growth forest habitat in the Illabot Creek corridor, it supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the lower 48 plus two communal night roosts. One roost area is within the existing Skagit Wild and Scenic River corridor, and the second is within the proposed Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River designation.

American Rivers is truly pleased with the Senate’s actions and we are hopefully that these treasured landscapes and river systems will gain their deserving permanent protections before the year’s end.

Next stop, the U.S House of Representatives.

Thank you, Senators!

Please take a moment to thank Senators Murray, Cantwell, Wyden and Merkley for the tireless hours they’ve spent to protect these cherished rivers and landscapes.

A sample thank you letter could include:

Dear Senator ______:

Thank you for your countless hours working with local communities to protect our beloved wilderness and rivers. Wild and Scenic River designations provide permanent protections to the rivers that sustain our way of life. They provide cool, clean water and recreational opportunities for me and my family. Protecting these rivers and wildlands will ensure these pristine areas remain so for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and vision.