Bipartisan protections for the rivers on which life depends
American Rivers is asking Congress to pass a land and water protection package that includes new Wild and Scenic River and public lands protections for rivers pending in Congress that would conserve rivers in seven states, from Maine to Oregon.
Alarm bells are ringing on rivers across our country. The Mississippi River hit record low water levels after months of drought and snarling barge traffic, threatening drinking water supplies. The Colorado River is in dire condition, with shrinking reservoirs threatening a $1.4 trillion economy. Nationwide, communities, businesses, and local economies are feeling the impacts of increased droughts and floods on their own hometown rivers.
It’s also of grave concern that we are losing nature: freshwater species are going extinct at twice the rate of terrestrial or marine species. From wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest to hundreds of species of amphibians, our country’s web of life is at risk as river habitat is threatened.
Perhaps the greatest threat is lack of awareness of how important rivers are to our lives. Rivers provide clean drinking water for most of our communities. River recreation and restoration are key drivers to a strong economy, generating $862 billion in economic output and supporting 4.5 million jobs — especially important during uncertain times and inflation.
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By protecting rivers, we stem the loss of nature and buffer the effects of climate change by reducing flooding and providing more consistent water flow in times of drought. Protecting rivers isn’t a luxury, it’s essential to our health, our economy, and the future of our country. Right now, Congress has an opportunity in the lame duck session to advance powerful bipartisan river protections in a public lands and waters omnibus bill.
American Rivers is asking Congress to pass a land and water protection package that includes new Wild and Scenic River and public lands protections for rivers pending in Congress that would conserve rivers in seven states, from Maine to Oregon. These bills would protect the free and natural flow of these rivers and their special values, such as clean water, transportation, recreation scenery, fisheries, and culture. Once passed into law, the legislation currently pending in Congress will expand durable, community-supported protection for rivers.
At a minimum there are nine river conservation bills, in five states that Congress should enact into law that have either passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee or the U.S. House with bi-partisan support; the typical standard of legislative viability. These bills are a reflection of homegrown initiatives originating in mostly rural communities.
Some examples include the Gila River in Southwest New Mexico with its amazing canyons, rock formations, rare Gila trout, and rare wildlife habitat. The local Grant County Commission and businesses in this heavily mining dependent region, support protecting the lifeblood of the community.
The Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act would establish a new National Recreation Area for the economically important and salmon-filled Rogue River and codify an existing 20-year administrative mineral withdrawal in the area supported by Curry County; typically one of the most conservative in the state.
The Kissimmee River Wild and Scenic River Study Act would explore protection for 103 river miles of this extraordinary river in Florida, building on the historic restoration of the Everglades.
In Maine, the York River Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, sponsored by Sen. Angus King and Sen. Susan Collins, would protect more than 30 river miles.
Rivers and streams are our nation’s circulatory system, like the veins and arteries in our own bodies. We must keep them clean and flowing to protect our health, our economy, and our communities. By protecting these rivers, we will help preserve their clean water, nature, and sacred values for future generations. Congress should seize this critical moment to advance bipartisan protections for the rivers on which all life depends.