Today the U.S. Senate passed a landmark bill that protects nearly 620 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers in seven states, establishes new wilderness areas, protects some important rivers from mining, and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For Wild and Scenic River designations the bill, S. 47, marks the biggest step forward in nearly a decade.
As we celebrate 50 years of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act this year it is fitting that there is bipartisan support for protecting new Wild and Scenic Rivers from Massachusetts to California, including adding protections for tributaries of the Rogue River, one of the original eight rivers protected in 1968.
Thank you to U.S. Senators Cantwell and Murkowski worked tirelessly to move this massive package of natural resource bills. There are many champions to thank in the Senate for their work on behalf of protecting free-flowing rivers as Wild and Scenic including California Senator Feinstein, Massachusetts Senator Markey, and Senators Merkley and Wyden who fought for 250 miles of new designations in Oregon. With passage of this bill Senator Wyden has now protected more miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in his home state, over 2000, than any member of Congress ever. Senator Wyden is a true river champion.
The overwhelming local support for these protections are the reason why they are moving through Congress despite the gridlock that usually dominates Congress when it comes to natural resource issues. A special thanks to the years of hard work of groups like the Nashua River Watershed Association, American Whitewater, the Farmington River Watershed Association, Molalla River Alliance, and K.S. Wild to help organize river communities in support of these new designations. Thanks also to our business partners including Northwest Rafting Company, Nite Ize, NRS, REI, OARS and Yeti.
We are hopeful that the House passes this critical bipartisan legislation and send it to the President’s desk for signature.
Some details on the rivers protected:
- 256 miles of new designations the for tributaries for the Rogue River, the Molalla, and Elk Rivers in Oregon;
- 110 miles of the Wood-Pawcatuck Rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut;
- 76 miles of Amargosa River, Deep Creek, Surprise Canyon and other desert streams in California;
- 63 miles of the Green River in Utah;
- 62 miles of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook in Connecticut;
- 52.8 miles of the Nashua, Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Along with the designation of East Rosebud Creek in 2018, Montana’s first new Wild and Scenic River in 42 years, today’s action is a major step forward for the 5000 Miles of Wild campaign, an effort led by American Rivers, American Whitewater and our partners to protect 5,000 additional river miles and 1 million acres of riverside by October of 2020.
The bill includes other critical river protection and restoration measures, including:
- Reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s largest and most important conservation program that provides hundreds of millions of dollars annually to secure the purchase and protection of public lands;
- Wild and Scenic North Umpqua River Wild Steelhead protections: Would protect 99,653 of steelhead habitat in the North Umpqua River watershed in honor of Frank Moore, a World War II veteran and his wife, Jeanne, legendary stewards of the river;
- Mineral withdrawals to protect the Yellowstone River in Montana, the Methow River in Washington and the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Oregon from harmful mining;
- Name change for Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Whychus Creek, formerly known as Squaw Creek, a derogatory term.