Today is a Day to Celebrate

Today is a day to celebrate. Simply put, Congress today passed the most comprehensive river protection and public lands bill in decades.

The bill includes over 1,100 miles of 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers in eight states and also designates over 2 million acres of new wilderness.  To give you a sense of scale, 1,100 miles of river is roughly the entire length of the Colorado River from source to sea.  Prior to this multi-year effort only 166 rivers had been designated as Wild and Scenic in the 40 years since the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed. A short list of those celebrating passage of this bill today includes: salmon and steelhead fisherman in Oregon, the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Arizona, outdoor business owners in Wyoming, ranchers, rafters and hunters in the desert country of Idaho, bird watchers in Massachusetts, and even the family farmers in northern Vermont. Click here to see a map of the western rivers designated as Wild and Scenic under the bill.

Special thanks go to our champions in Congress who maneuvered this massive package of bills through both chambers on Capitol Hill over the past five years and our partners that have slaved away for at least as long.  Bill Sedivy of Idaho Rivers United, Scott Bosse of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Erik Fernandez of Oregon Wild and Phyllis Clausen formerly of Friends of the White Salmon come to mind.  There are many others.

My greatest appreciation is for the tenacious individuals on the ground that unwaveringly fought for their special rivers and places. People like Susan Thomas, a stalwart supporter of protecting the Headwaters of the Snake River in Wyoming and wife of the late Senator Craig Thomas, who introduced the idea of protecting the river in Congress, Jim Rogers, a forester who fought to protect the old growth trees and emerald green water of the Elk River watershed, and Mike McCarthy a pear farmer who helped protect the Hood River watershed.

The rivers in the bill heading to President Obama’s desk will remain free-flowing, never blocked by a dam, and their unique character protected. Beyond the narrow ribbon of water flowing between banks, designation also protects a quarter-mile corridor of land on either side of these rivers that provides important habitat and migration routes for animals, benefits for water quality, flood reduction and even soaking up water in the ground to be used for drinking water later.  This one bill alone protects over 350,000 acres of this valuable riverside land.

Of course we all at American Rivers are celebrating too in the best way we know how, having a party and planning our next big thing.