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Legislation With Over 1000 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers Passes House

Posted: 02/12/2020
By: Thomas O'Keefe

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of public lands and waters legislation. This legislation, known as Protecting America's Wilderness Act (H.R. 2546), amends the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019 by combining several bills we have worked on and includes 1048 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Washington and California. The primary bills of interest to the whitewater paddling community included in this legislation are Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (originally H.R. 2250); Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (originally H.R. 2199); San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (originally H.R. 2215); and Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (originally H.R. 2642). The bill also includes the Colorado Wilderness Act (H.R. 2546) and protections for the Dolores River Canyon. The legislation will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers that would be designated by this legislation include several that are enjoyed by the whitewater paddling community. We appreciate the leadership of all the Members of Congress who sponsored these bills and are pleased to see them come before the House floor for a vote. American Whitewater has brought the voice of the whitewater paddling community to the discussions that led to these legislative proposals with a goal of protecting rivers and the whitewater paddling experience.

Even if you have taken action on these bills in the past, it's critical to weigh in with your support this week and communicate your enthusiasm for Wild and Scenic Rivers. We've made it easy by creating a template to Take Action. We encourage you to personalize with a message on your connection to rivers in the legislation. Follow up your message with a tweet (see below for who to mention and what to tag for each bill).

Background

Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (Title II of H.R. 2546; originally H.R. 2250)

Thank @RepHuffman and tag #MountainsAndRivers

This bill would designate 379 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers. Rivers that flow through the fog-shrouded redwood forests and crystalline turquoise pools of Northern California represent some of the most spectacular wild rivers on the West Coast. While many of these rivers in the region were protected in the final hours of the Carter Administration in 1981, Representative Huffman has led an effort to protect additional river miles and upper watersheds while ensuring that communities can reduce forest fire fuel load. East Fork North Fork Trinity River and Canyon Creek would be among the new Wild and Scenic Rivers along with Redwood Creek, a whitewater run that provides an experience of paddling through a forest of the tallest living trees in the world. The bill would establish a 730,000 restoration area within the South Fork Trinity River, Mad River, and North Fork Eel watersheds for forest restoration and forest fire fuel reduction. In addition, 260,000 acres of proposed wilderness, largely in the Trinity River basin, would protect upper watersheds and the river resources downstream.

Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (Title III of H.R. 2546; originally H.R. 2199)

Thank @RepCarbajal and tag #CentralCoastWild

This bill would designate 159 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers including the upper reaches of Piru Creek, a rare waterway for the region that provides outstanding wilderness whitewater less than an hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. In addition, additional miles of Sespe Creek above the classic exploratory section would be designated. The bill would also designate nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness and create two new scenic areas in California's Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Representative Carbajal is the prime sponsor of this bill with 12 additional co-sponsors.

San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (Title IV of H.R. 2546; originally H.R. 2215)

@RepJudyChu and tag #SanGabrielMtns

This bill would designate 45.5 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Southern California including the San Gabriel and its primary forks. This bill spurs outdoor recreation by connecting park-poor areas, especially communities of color, to open space. This legislation expands the San Gabriel National Monument established in 2014 by an additional 109,00 acres, and establishes a National Recreation Area along the San Gabriel River. The legislation would also protect more than 30,000 acres as wilderness. Representative Chu is the prime sponsor of this bill with 17 additional co-sponsors.

Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Title VI of H.R. 2546; originally H.R. 2642)

Thank @RepDerekKilmer and tag #WildOlympics

This bill would designate 464 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers that would include 19 rivers and their major tributaries. Rivers like the Sitkum, Matheny Creek, Sol Duc, Elwha, and South Fork Skokomish offer outstanding opportunities for whitewater paddlers to experience old-growth forests and fern-covered gorges. Some of the rivers like the Dosewallips have been considered for hydropower development schemes. The legislation would also protect 126,000 acres of ancient forests, within the headwaters of the major Olympic Peninsula rivers, as wilderness. Representative Kilmer has been working to bring this bill to a hearing since he became a Member of Congress.


Associated Projects

Wild Olympics (WA)

A campaign to protect the free-flowing rivers of the Olympic Peninsula.

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