Celebrating 50 Years of Wild & Scenic Rivers

Photo courtesy of Scott Cordner www.scottcordner.com

October 2nd marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, which protects over 12,000 miles of 200+ rivers. Federal agencies rely on engaged and knowledgeable citizen groups to manage these spectacular rivers, and River Network supports local water champions and groups from around the country doing vital work on our wild and scenic rivers. Earlier this year, we reported on the latest wild and scenic designation in Montana, as well as about outstanding individuals who are helping to ignite the next generation of river champions—Chad Brown of Soul River, Inc and Gary Ananian of the Kern River Conservancy.

Additionally, through funding from Patagonia, River Network awarded four grassroots organizations with small grants to support work on wild and scenic river issues and campaigns. We received a ton of excellent proposals—54 proposals spanning 27 states. Here are the winners, plus updates from their events and activities.

  • The Clarion River flows through the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds™ landscape in the northern part of the state, home to rural communities and vast stretches of public land. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy collaborates with local groups and land management agencies to promote sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreation within the region. Building off of this work, the Conservancy celebrated the 50th anniversary with a canoe sojourn on the Clarion. See their photo essay here.
  • Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wants to protect an additional stretch of the Yellow Dog River via wild and scenic designation. This added portion flows through the Yellow Dog Community Forest, a 689 acre preserve owned and managed by YDWP. The Yellow Dog flows through some of the most pristine and intact wilderness east of the Mississippi River, but nearby active and proposed mining projects threaten these ecosystems and is dividing local communities. Learn more about YDWP wild and scenic activities here.
  • The Westfield River in western Massachusetts was the first of thirteen ‘partnership’ wild and scenic rivers designated along the East Coast. For over 20 years, the partnership program has allowed exceptional rivers flowing mainly through private lands to be managed cooperatively by a committee of municipal employees, land and business owners, grassroots organizations, state officials, and the National Park Service. The Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee sponsors various K-12 educational programs to educate children and families on the importance of protecting the Westfield—one of the most intact river systems in southern New England. To celebrate the 50th anniversary and foster the next generation of river champions, the Committee organized a unique exploration of the Westfield through nature lessons, storytelling, and art. See the project here.
  • Wild Places is interested in designating a stretch of the Tule River—in the southern part of California’s Sierra Nevada—as wild and scenic. They are engaging a wide variety of stakeholders including disadvantaged communities in the nearby Central Valley to elevate the importance of the wild and scenic river system, and specifically to demonstrate the value of protecting the Tule as a community resource. Activities include river and riparian habitat restoration events, bilingual community meetings to discuss water and watershed issues, creation of a video highlighting how local communities can play a role in watershed protection, and the convening of regional organizations to assess interest and the potential for pursuing wild and scenic designation.

How is your organization or community celebrating and protecting wild and scenic rivers? We’d love to hear from you. Share with us on social media Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.