Washington, DC On Monday, November 17, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed that the lack of time and pressures to complete an economic stimulus package will prevent Congress from introducing a bi-partisan bill that included important protections for rivers including new Wild and Scenic River and Wilderness designations.
A silver lining in this disappointing news is that there is strong interest from Congressional leadership in passing the bill early next year, in the 111th Congress, when time is not such a significant factor as it will be during this lame duck session.
“While the clock ran out on Congress this year, we will have a whole new ball game in just a couple of months,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “The strong bi-partisan support for these watershed protections will spill over into next session and we are confident we will see swift Congressional action on this bill.”
American Rivers called on Congress last month to renew its commitment to protect the nation’s clean water and river heritage by passing this bill. This package would have been the second largest Wild and Scenic package in history, safeguarding 852.8 miles of rivers in Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and Massachusetts. The biggest Wild and Scenic package ever passed was an Oregon bill in 1988, which included 1,429.05 miles of rivers.
It is important to pass this legislation next year because 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.
Wild and Scenic designations can also 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.
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.
“Our rivers face unprecedented threats from global warming and harmful development,” said Wodder. “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.”
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.