Connecticut’s Eightmile River Protected Forever
President Bush Signs Wild and Scenic LegislationMay 8th, 2008
Garrett Russo, American Rivers, (202) 243-7073
Eli Weissman, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550
Washington, DC —The Eightmile River will now be protected forever, after being added to the Wild and Scenic River System with a few strokes of President Bush’s pen. The bill, which was included in a large package of natural resources bills, passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan majorities.
“Getting Wild and Scenic protection for the Eightmile has been more like a marathon than a 10K, but we’ve finally crossed the finish line,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers ™. “Hard work really does pay off in the end.”
Protecting the Eightmile River as Wild and Scenic was the first piece of legislation ever introduced by freshman Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT). It first passed the House in July and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate along with Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). Due to legislative rules, the House was forced to pass it again before sending it to the President.
“After many years fighting for the preservation of the Eightmile River, local advocates now have their victory,” stated Courtney. “I am pleased to have successfully ushered this bill through the House, but the credit belongs to the local residents and environmental leaders who made the conservation of our local environment a relentless priority.”
The watershed, studied by the National Park Service and determined eligible for national Wild and Scenic status, is the largest unfragmented forest region in coastal Connecticut, and its scenic beauty, historic character, and abundant fisheries serve as a tremendous source of pride for the residents of the local communities. The Eightmile will become the second river in Connecticut protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Farmington River is the other.
“The towns who have worked so long and hard to protect this treasured river and its watershed can finally celebrate. Not only does passage facilitate watershed protection efforts, but it also illustrates the scope of accomplishment when communities join together,” said Anthony Irving, Chairman of the Eightmile Wild and Scenic Committee. “We are greatly honored to be the nation’s newest Wild and Scenic River.”
“Every other legislator can, and should give the same gift to their constituents that Congressman Courtney gave to the people of Connecticut,” added Wodder. “Currently Congress is considering adding 200 rivers to the Wild and Scenic System. Such legislation must be wrapped up, before congress wraps up this session.”
One of those bills is the Snake Headwaters Legacy Act (S. 1281), sponsored by the Senator John Barasso (R-WY), as a legacy to the late-Senator Craig Thomas who was the original champion of the bill. If passed, the legislation would constitute the largest expansion of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system since the law’s passage in 1968, nearly 400 miles of 14 rivers.
“I look forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers act with river lovers and conservationists from both sides of the aisle,” concluded Wodder. “Protecting our natural treasures shouldn’t be a political issue, but rather a gift we can all give to our children.”
About Wild & Scenic Rivers
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers system includes the nation’s most outstanding rivers totaling 165 rivers in 38 states.
To be eligible for wild and scenic river designation, a river must be free-flowing and have at least one outstanding resource value, such as recreation, scenery, wildlife and fish habitat, history, geology, or other similar values. Rivers may be added to the system by an act of Congress. Or, if a river is protected through a state program, it may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior upon official request by the governor.
To protect and enhance the resource values for which a river was designated, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act affords a river legal protection from adverse development impacts.
- Forbids the construction of new federally licensed dams
- Limits inappropriate streamside development
- Protects the river’s unique values
- Mandates the creation of a management plan for the wild and scenic river
Oregon leads the nation with 49 rivers designated, while Alaska boasts a stunning 3,210 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers. 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.