The 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is the best way that a river can be protected in the US. A river designated "wild and scenic" cannot have roads built within 1/2 mile of the water. There can be no dams upstream. There can be no logging, mining, or construction of anything but trails along its banks. Non-commercial fishing and boating are permitted.
I had the luck of working for many years on the Wild and Scenic protected part of the Chattooga River, which is along the SC / GA border. And I am grateful that congress saw fit to pass this law. While admittedly we need the resources that can be extracted from our river gorges, rivers are much more important than simply timber, or an easy backyard dumping ground for waste. Rivers are lifelines.
We people drive cars on the interstate when we want to go somewhere. Wildlife follows waterways. Obviously fish live there, and are dependent on decent water quality and flow for survival. Birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians all live and travel along the shores. Even plants migrate by following the bands of temperature and moisture best suited to them along the slopes of drainages. By protecting long segments of river throughout our lands, we provide a means for the living beings of our continent to move as the climate changes. Protected river corridors provide us with pleasant recreation and clean water, but the support they provide to fragmented ecosystems may prove more valuable to our survival in the end.
The Rogue River is a well known river in southwest Oregon. Eighty four miles are already protected under the Wild and Scenic act, and permits are required to float the river there. Last year there was an attempt to gain protection for more tributaries the Rogue River. It didn't pass last year, but the bill has been resubmitted this term. The bill is HR 2890/S. 1271. It would extend protection to another 143 river miles of tributaries of the Rogue, and 78,000 acres of adjacent lands as part of the Oregon Caves National Monument. The legislation was introduced by Representative Peter DeFazio and Senator Wyden. They also introduced a bill to protect Devil's Staircase. I hope they all pass.
Of course the businesses that profit from resource extraction are against wild and scenic protection of anything. Any law that limits extraction is going to attract their attention. So if you care as I do, it is up to you to let your representatives know that you would rather pay more for board feet and have intact river corridors throughout the land. In the meantime, if we manage those lands intelligently the resources there will be undiminished. If we decide we need to extract there later, all it takes is another act of congress. The point is to act for the benefit of our society, not just for certain businesses.
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