The Nation Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

50 years later, it has never been more important to fight for our rivers

Rogue River shot by John Bruckman

October 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, one of our nation’s landmark conservation laws.

The golden anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the importance of rivers in our country, and commit ourselves to their protection for the next 50 years.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System safeguards beloved places that define us as a nation. The ‘shot heard ‘round the world’ was fired over the Wild and Scenic Concord River in Massachusetts. Nebraska’s native prairie still thrives along the Wild and Scenic Niobrara River. Wild salmon return every year to the Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. Lewis and Clark would still recognize the Upper Missouri River in Montana.

Millions of people in New York, Pennsylvania, California and other states turn on their faucets every day and enjoy clean drinking water, thanks to the protection of Wild and Scenic Rivers such as the Upper Delaware and Tuolumne.

Together, we will write the next chapter for river conservation in our country. We must prioritize the protection of wild, free-flowing rivers in collaborative, bipartisan ways that benefit all of us – particularly historically marginalized communities and communities of color. Now is the time to act, because healthy rivers make us more resilient to the impacts of climate change by providing reliable, clean water supplies and natural flood protection. Wild and Scenic Rivers also offer unsurpassed opportunities for recreation and connection with each other and the natural world.

When he signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, President Johnson said, ‘Every individual and every family should get to know at least one river.’ Rivers connect us to our past and our future. American Rivers is committed to supporting and growing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System to ensure a rich legacy of wild rivers for generations to come.

Some key facts

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was championed by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on October 2, 1968. It is unique in the world and remains the most powerful tool for protecting rivers, by prohibiting dams and other harmful development along the designated reaches.

Today, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System safeguards nearly 13,000 miles along parts of 209 rivers and 3,000,000 acres of riverside land in 40 states and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. See https://www.rivers.gov/map.php

We’re making progress

American Rivers and the 5,000 Miles of Wild® campaign are working to protect 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of land nationwide.

The nation’s newest Wild and Scenic River is East Rosebud Creek, part of the Yellowstone River watershed in Montana. President Trump signed the bipartisan legislation into law in August. Current grassroots Wild and Scenic designation efforts include the Nooksack River in Washington, the Gila River in New Mexico, Montana’s Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Oregon Wildlands with protections for the Molalla and Rogue rivers, and the Wild Olympics, with protections for rivers including the Elwha and Sol Duc.

The 5,000 Miles of Wild® campaign is supported by American Rivers, American Whitewater, Pacific Rivers, NRS, OARS, YETI, REI Co-op, Chums, Chaco, Nite Ize, Kokatat, Yakima, and KEEN.

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