Court Decision Reaffirms Obligation to Protect Wild and Scenic Rivers
Important Victory for the Merced River in Yosemite National ParkMarch 28th, 2008
David Moryc, American Rivers, 503 307-1137
Peter Frost, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-543-0018
Seattle, WA: The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Thursday upheld a 2006 ruling that the National Park Service’s management plan for the Wild and Scenic Merced River in Yosemite National Park does not adequately protect the river. The ruling reaffirms the obligation of river managers to both protect and enhance the unique values of Wild and Scenic rivers.
“This is an important victory for the Merced, and for Wild and Scenic rivers nationwide,” said David Moryc, Wild and Scenic rivers program director for American Rivers. “The court’s ruling is significant because it said the status quo isn’t good enough and that the Park Service must do more to protect the river’s Wild and Scenic values.”
“Wild and Scenic rivers are the best of the best, nationally recognized and valued,” Moryc said. “We must strike a balance with sensible development along Wild and Scenic rivers because we have a responsibility to protect their clean water, fish and wildlife, and recreation for future generations.”
The court found that the Park Service plan for the Merced failed to present alternatives for managing development in a way that safeguards the river’s health and scenic values. It pointed out that the river’s Wild and Scenic values have already been compromised, as illustrated by dozens of facilities in the river corridor, including tennis courts, shops, an ice-skating rink and a golf course. In its plan, the Park Service did not explain how this status quo would protect or enhance the river’s unique values, including river recreation, as required under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. American Rivers filed an amicus brief to the court.
“The Park Service was turning a blind eye to the river when it was making decisions about development on the valley floor. What happens along the river has significant impacts on the river’s health, clean water, and the experience of boaters and anglers using the river.”
American Rivers called on managing agencies to reaffirm their commitment to protecting and enhancing Wild and Scenic rivers. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
“In this anniversary year we need to re-dedicate ourselves to enforcing protections of our Wild and Scenic rivers. It is important that development along Wild and Scenic rivers is consistent with protecting what made these rivers Wild and Scenic in the first place.”
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to protect free-flowing rivers with outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values. There are more than 160 Wild and Scenic Rivers across the country.