American Rivers Launches Initiative to Designate New Wild, Scenic Rivers

On Oct. 2, American Rivers marked the 38th anniversary of the signing of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by announcing a challenge to designate 40 new rivers by the 40th anniversary in 2008.

That initiative notched its first win with passage of legislation to designate a section of the Black Butte River and its tributary Cold Creek in California.

"A healthy river is a tremendous asset to any community, but these special rivers are treasures for the entire nation," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "The Black Butte River is a treasure for California and the whole country, and a wonderful way to kick off American Rivers' 40x40 Challenge."

The National Wild and Scenic system covers 11,358 river miles, which is just more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation's rivers. By comparison, an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 dams across the country have impounded more than 600,000 miles, or at least 17 percent of our rivers.

The act protects many of the nation's most spectacular and historic rivers. Oregon leads the nation with 47 rivers designated, while Alaska boasts a stunning 3,210 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers.

While economic analyses have clearly shown considerable benefits to communities that have a Wild and Scenic river flowing nearby, several misconceptions about the act have begun to take root, according to American Rivers. Designation under the act means that development along the river must protect its "outstandingly remarkable resources" and free-flowing character; by no means does it prohibit development outright or give the federal government control over private property, the organization stated.

American Rivers' 40x40 Challenge is intended to regain momentum in the designation of special rivers around the country. Initially, there were a large number of rivers designated when the Act was first put in place, and surges in additions to the system at intervals since then. Currently there are 165 rivers in the National Wild and Scenic River System -- but at least 3,400 other rivers meet the criteria for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In the past five years, only nine rivers have been designated. The 40x40 Challenge will harness the enthusiasm and knowledge of local groups and citizens, and combine it with the technical expertise, policy knowledge, and political savvy of American Rivers to reinvigorate the effort to protect the nation's most treasured rivers.

American Rivers has more information the Wild and Scenic River System and Economic Benefits of Wild and Scenic designation at http://www.americanrivers.org/gowild.

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