American Rivers Calls for Additional Wild and Scenic Protections for John Day Basin

Comments on BLM's management plan focus on sustaining river health in a warming world

January 26th, 2009

Kavita Heyn, American Rivers, 503-827-8648
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-347-7550

Portland, Oregon: Thirty-seven miles of the North Fork John Day River should be protected as Wild and Scenic, and the Bureau of Land Management should better control grazing and off-highway vehicle use in order to better protect the clean water and fish and wildlife habitat of the John Day River Basin, American Rivers said today.

American Rivers worked closely with local organizations before submitting these recommended changes to the draft John Day Basin Resource Management Plan (RMP).  The RMP is part of a land management planning process that the BLM is required to conduct for the basin, and will set the course for how the basin’s public lands and rivers are managed for the next 15 years. 

“It’s crunch time on the John Day. Climate change is going to put increasing stress on the river’s clean water and native fish runs. We need a management plan that ensures this unique river will be healthy for generations to come,” said Kavita Heyn, Associate Director of Oregon Conservation Programs at American Rivers.

The John Day River is the second longest undammed river in the continental United States.  Along with its tributaries, it supports the largest runs of steelhead in the entire Columbia River system.  Outdoor enthusiasts from Oregon and beyond visit the John Day River Basin to fish, raft, hike, hunt, horseback ride, and take in the breathtaking scenic vistas of high-desert sagebrush steppes and ponderosa woodlands. 

American Rivers is recommending that 37 miles of the North Fork John Day River, from Camas Creek to Monument, be protected as a Wild and Scenic River.  A Wild and Scenic designation protects the river corridor from inappropriate development, blocks dams and other harmful water projects, and preserves the 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 spur the local economy by boosting recreation and tourism, raising property values, and improving the quality of life.

American Rivers is also calling for the protection of spawning and rearing habitat used by threatened Middle Columbia River Steelhead in the John Day.  The comments urge the BLM to incorporate careful management of streamside areas by controlling grazing and off-highway vehicle use. Grazing contributes to bank erosion and water pollution, and can introduce fecal coliform bacteria to the streams that steelhead rely on for reproduction.

American Rivers also warns the BLM that regional climate change projections by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group indicate that this already dry river basin may experience lower summer stream flows and warmer summer temperatures over the next few decades.  This temperature rise would harm native fish survival, and must be considered when planning for the future management of the John Day Basin.

“The healthier the river, the more likely it will be able to thrive and sustain life in a warming world,” said Heyn. “By protecting the John Day’s wild nature, we can help the river and its web of life weather the impacts of climate change.”

Public comments on the John Day management plan will be accepted by the BLM until Jan 29, 2009.


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.