Washington, DC -- This Sunday Congress has the chance to renew its commitment to protect the nation’s clean water and river heritage by passing S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which includes eight provisions that have important protections for 82 rivers. Only once before in history has Congress protected more rivers at one time under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The bill would safeguard over 270,000 acres along over 1,000 miles of rivers in Oregon, California, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and Massachusetts.
“These protections are significant not only because of the quantity, but because of the amazing quality of the rivers and lands it will protect,” said David Moryc, Senior Director of River Protection at American Rivers. “Senators Reid and Bingaman are working hard to ensure we invest in the future by conserving precious resources such as clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation.”
Last October marked the 40th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and protection of these rivers is a fitting celebration of this event. Designation of the 400 miles of Snake River headwaters in Wyoming not only protects one of the last remaining cutthroat trout populations in the Lower 48 states but is a fitting tribute to the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) who championed their protection.
The Mount Hood Wilderness in Oregon will include nine rivers in Oregon that provide clean drinking water, substantial salmon and steelhead habitat, and fantastic river recreation opportunities including hunting, fishing, rugged hiking, and whitewater boating.
In Idaho, seventeen of the best rivers in the Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands that provide habitat for many rare plant and animal species as well as superb water quality for the region’s citizens will be designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
“We welcome Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Jeff Bingaman’s commitment to making passage of this legislation a top priority,” said Moryc. These Congressional leaders were joined by diverse groups of stakeholders including county officials, ranchers, tribes, hunters, outfitters, and conservationists who support Wild and Scenic Rivers.
A Wild and Scenic designation creates a protected riparian buffer along both sides of a river, blocks dams and other harmful water projects, and preserves a river's free-flowing nature. It also helps protect and improve water quality, as well as the river's unique historic, cultural, scenic, ecological, and recreational values. Wild and Scenic designations can also bring significant economic benefits to local communities. In addition to giving a boost to recreation and tourism, Wild and Scenic designations can raise property values and improve quality of life.
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 bipartisan support.
“Our rivers face unprecedented threats from global warming and harmful development,” said Moryc. “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.