“These protections are significant not only because of the large quantity, but because of the amazing quality of the land and rivers it will conserve particularly along the flanks of Mount Hood and along the Elk River in Southern Oregon,” said David Moryc, Senior Director of River Protection at American Rivers. The 11 rivers in Oregon that would be protected under the Senate bill would be the culmination of a multi-year effort led by Senator Ron Wyden. “These protections are an investment in the future of Oregon as they will conserve precious resources such as clean drinking water, healthy salmon and steelhead habitat, and fantastic hunting, fishing and boating recreation,” added Moryc.
A bill to protect the Rogue River by expanding Wild and Scenic protections for tributaries that provide coldwater and spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead was introduced by Senator Wyden and Representative Peter DeFazio last session did not make it into the package under consideration due to a lack of support from former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith. Incoming Oregon Senator Jeff Merkely expressed his support for Rogue River protections during his campaign. Along with Merkely, Governor Ted Kulongoski, and over 70 local and regional businesses support the bill.
Additionally, a study by ECONorthwest demonstrates that rafting, fishing, and hiking along the Rogue River generate $30 million and 445 jobs in Oregon. And a report released by the University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative last month detailed the projected impacts of climate change on the Rogue River and fish, and emphasized the need to act now to protect this unique river.
A Wild and Scenic designation is the highest level of protection a river can get. Enactment of the law in 1968 signified a fundamental shift in the way we value rivers. Three years ago, in anticipation for the 40th anniversary of the law, American Rivers set the goal of designating 40 new Wild and Scenic Rivers by 2008. Passage of this package marks the achievement of our goal.
A Wild and Scenic designation creates a protected riparian buffer along both sides of a river, blocks dams and other harmful water projects, and preserves a river's free-flowing nature. It also helps protect and improve water quality, as well as the river's unique historic, cultural, scenic, ecological, and recreational values. Wild and Scenic designations can also bring significant economic benefits to local communities. In addition to giving a boost to recreation and tourism, Wild and Scenic designations can raise property values and improve quality of life.
“Our rivers face unprecedented threats from global warming and harmful development,” said Moryc. “We also know that healthy, free-flowing rivers generate major economic benefits, provide clean water, and are the lifeblood of thriving communities. Wild and Scenic designations protect rivers from the worst threats and ensure we’ll reap the benefits of healthy rivers for years to come.”
For more information visit www.americanrivers.org/gowild