Washington, DC -- On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, American Rivers today called on Congress to renew its commitment to protect the nation’s clean water and river heritage by passing bills to add more than 850 miles of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
“We have come a long way in 40 years, but we still have a long way to go. There are 3.5 million miles of rivers in our country, and less than one percent are protected,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
“From the Taunton River in Massachusetts to the Snake headwaters of Wyoming, from the clear waters of Arizona’s Fossil Creek to the streams of Oregon’s Mount Hood and Wild Rogue, communities around the country are eager for Congress to act on these new Wild and Scenic designations,” said Wodder.
Forty years ago, on October 2, 1968, President Johnson signed into the law the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, with the goal of protecting our country's wild river heritage and all the benefits wild rivers bring to our communities. Enactment of the law in signified a fundamental shift in the way we value rivers. For the first time in our nation’s history we embraced conservation of rivers for their inherent unique qualities.
“Rivers touch our lives in so many ways. They give us drinking water and are home to fish and wildlife. They support recreation and tourism economies worth billions. They are sources of identity and community pride. They flow through our culture, in our music, art and stories. We have a responsibility to protect our rivers for future generations,” said Wodder.
There are 166 Wild and Scenic rivers in our country. The Missouri River explored by Lewis and Clark, the Delaware River that cradled the American Revolution, and the Tuolumne River loved by John Muir are all protected by this visionary law. The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System is one of our country's most important natural resource programs and protecting Wild and Scenic rivers enjoys strong bi-partisan support.
A Wild and Scenic designation is the highest level of protection a river can get. It blocks dams and other harmful water projects, and preserves a river's free-flowing nature. The designation also protects and improves water quality, as well as the river's unique historic, cultural, scenic, ecological, and recreational values. It provides a protective buffer along the river while allowing appropriate development and use. Each river has its own unique management plan that is developed in concert with local landowners and citizens.
“Our rivers face unprecedented threats from global warming and harmful development. We also know that healthy, free-flowing rivers generate major economic benefits, provide clean water, and are the lifeblood of thriving communities. Wild and Scenic designations protect rivers from the worst threats and ensure we’ll reap the benefits of healthy rivers for years to come,” said Wodder.
The biggest Wild and Scenic package ever passed was an Oregon bill in 1988, which included 1429.05 miles of rivers. Now Congress is considering the second largest Wild and Scenic package in history which would safeguard 852.8 miles of rivers in Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming and Massachusetts.
Wild and Scenic designations can bring significant economic benefits to local communities. A recent study in Oregon showed that rafting, fishing and jet boat tours on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River generated $14 million and 225 jobs in one rural county. In addition to giving a boost to recreation and tourism, Wild and Scenic designations can raise property values and improve quality of life.
American Rivers has a long history of protecting Wild and Scenic Rivers. The organization was founded 35 years ago to protect the nation’s last wild rivers many of them threatened by new dams and other harmful projects by expanding the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
For more information visit www.americanrivers.org/gowild
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.