In celebration of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the national Wild and Scenic Rivers System, Conservation Alliance grantees are banding together to protect 5,000 new miles of free-flowing, wild rivers in a collaborative campaign called 5,000 Miles of Wild. To support the effort they have authored this letter to Congress celebrating the anniversary and calling on our elected officials to support the many Wild & Scenic River bills currently pending in Congress.
The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was passed by Lyndon Johnson on October 2, 1968. Years before he was calling for a national system for protecting our “first highways”. In his 1965 State of the Union Address he said:
“RIVERS Those who first settled this continent found much to marvel at. Nothing was a greater source of wonder and amazement than the power and majesty of American rivers. They occupy a central place in myth and legend, folklore and literature.
They were our first highways, and some remain among the most important. We have had to control their ravages, harness their power, and use their water to help make whole regions prosper.
Yet even this seemingly indestructible natural resource is in danger.
Through our pollution control programs we can do much to restore our rivers. We will continue to conserve the water and power for tomorrow’s needs with well-planned reservoirs and power dams. But the time has also come to identify and preserve free flowing stretches of our great scenic rivers before growth and development make the beauty of the unspoiled waterway a memory.
To this end I will shortly send to the Congress a Bill to establish a National Wild Rivers System.”
Thanks to President Johnson’s forward thinking many of our most iconic rivers do have protective status. But there is much more to do as only one-quarter of one percent of rivers have been protected as Wild and Scenic. But there is much more to do…
For decades The Conservation Alliance has supported the organizations like – American Whitewater and American Rivers – working on the ground to protect wild rivers in places like the Wild Olympics in Washington State, the Oregon Wildlands in Oregon, in California’s Desert, Central Coast, and in the Northwest portion of the State, among others.
Although we did not have a history of funding its protection, we were thrilled that on August 2nd, East Rosebud Creek in Montana, became the nation’s newest wild and scenic river with strong bi-partisan support—and the first Montana river to receive the designation in 42 years. But we have more to do to strike the balance that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act envisions.
Conservation of Wild and Scenic Rivers and the public lands that they often flow through provide stability for our sustainable outdoor recreation economy. According to our friends at the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion to the economy annually supporting 7.6 million jobs. Close to 75 percent of the nation’s outdoor recreation takes place within one-half mile of streams or other water bodies and river-related recreation alone contributes over $97 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
The Conservation Alliance has added its voice to this letter. We hope you will consider joining us!