Senators Wyden and Merkley Introduce Statewide Wild and Scenic Bill for Oregon
A local coalition of whitewater boaters, hunters and anglers, small business leaders, clean water advocates, veterans, local elected officials, and other community members are thanking Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today for introducing the River Democracy Act of 2021 (S. 192), which will designate 4,700 miles of rivers across the state as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (S. 192 on Congress.gov).
The legislation is a direct result of a nomination process where Oregonians, including members of the whitewater paddling community, recommended their favorite rivers for permanent protection. Senator Wyden’s office received over 15,000 nominations for thousands of miles of rivers from residents across the state, showing both the key role these rivers play in our communities and the strong local support for protecting them for the benefit of future generations. We are particularly excited to see whitweater gems we nominated that include tributaries of the Illinois like Indigo Creek and Josephine Creek, South Fork Coquille, Middle Santiam, Williamson, tributaries of the North Umpqua like Steamboat Creek and Copeland Creek, and Quartzville Creek.
Currently, Oregon has 2,173 miles designated in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system, representing 2% of Oregon’s 110,994 miles of rivers and streams. The River Democracy Act will protect 4,700 miles of Oregon’s cherished rivers across the state representing a huge step toward protecting Oregon’s most important rivers and streams. The River Democracy Act of 2021 is a testament to Oregonians’ commitment to conservation, healthy living, and outdoor recreation.
It has been clear how important Oregon’spublic lands and waters are to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people have turned to nature for their physical, emotional, and mental health. Senator Wyden’s legislation recognizes and honors the connection people have to the natural world during difficult times. We thank Senator Wyden for standing with his constituents and introducing legislation to protect our most scenic and most wild rivers for future generations.
This legislation is a result of river democracy and a process that involved public comment sessions, townhalls, and 15,000 nominations for river protection during Senator Ron Wyden’s grassroots development of this bill.
Visitors from across the country and around the globe come to explore and enjoy Oregon’s outstanding fishing and paddling opportunities. Outdoor recreation in the state supports 224,000 jobs, generates $15.6 billion consumer spending. River-based recreation on the Rogue River alone accounts for more than $30 million in total economic output. The bill is also a recognition of the role that outdoor recreation, tourism, and other businesses supported by rivers will play in getting local, rural economies back on their feet. Wild and Scenic River designations will protect these waters, while allowing traditional activities like grazing, ranching, hunting, and fishing to continue. Outdoor recreation in the state supports 224,000 jobs, generates $15.6 billion in consumer spending, and contributes $13 billion to the GDP.
Protecting rivers like the state's spectacular rivers is a commitment to future generations that they will be able to paddle, hike, fish, boat, and see the same wild rivers current residents have been able to enjoy. Oregonians thank Senator Wyden for his leadership and urge Congress to move this bill forward.
What the Whitewater Community is Saying:
Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director, American Whitewater
The wild rivers of Oregon attract whitewater boaters from around the world and are a defining attribute of the quality of life for residents of the state. Senator Wyden has been a consistent leader in recognizing the importance of Oregon’s rivers for public use and enjoyment and his leadership is critical to protect these natural assets for future generations.
Zachary Collier, Owner/Outfitter, Northwest Rafting Company & ECHO River Trips
I appreciate Senator Wyden’s leadership and relentless dedication to protecting the rivers of Oregon. The Wild and Scenic River protections he has championed are critical for my outfitting business and Oregon’s recreation economy.
Kate Wollney, Oregon Regional Manager, OARS
As a river guide for almost 30 years, I have had many reasons to thank Senator Wyden for all the work he does protecting wild places. In the 2020 river season, many of us have felt our only safe place to be in the COVID-19 pandemic was outside and in nature. With stress building at home for families juggling home-schooling, working, childcare, financial uncertainty, and threats to their health we heard so many families say that going rafting with us on the Rogue River (one of the charter rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act) was "so needed" and "kept them sane." As these stressors continue into 2021, I thank Senator Wyden-once again-for standing with his constituents and introducing legislation to protect our rivers. The world is likely to continue to become more complicated, but connecting with nature is a constant that always helps people stay healthy, especially during difficult times such as these.
Sam Drevo, Founder & Director, eNRG Kayaking
As one of the top paddling schools in the Northwest, we rely on access to rivers like the Clackamas, Santiam and the Willamette for our livelihoods. Senator Wyden’s work will help ensure that these magnificent waterways will continue to be enjoyed by new students that come through our company be they on a kayak, canoe, raft or stand up paddleboard. Thank you Senator Wyden.
Zac Kauffman, Owner, Sawyer Paddles & Oars
The Rogue was one of the original eight rivers designated as Wild & Scenic in 1968 and is a huge economic driver for our company, its employees and the Southern Oregon region. People from across the country and the globe come here to enjoy Oregon’s fishing and paddling opportunities and our business relies directly on the health of the river for these opportunities. River-based recreation on the Rogue River alone accounts for more than $30 million in total economic output. Sawyer Paddles and Oars supports Senator Ron Wyden’s bill to protect some of Oregon’s most treasured rivers as Wild and Scenic Rivers with its broad support from small business owners like myself, water-sports enthusiasts and other community members who all depend on these waterways.
Pete Wallstrom, Owner, Momentum River Expeditions
Visitors from across the country and around the globe come to explore Oregon's Wild & Scenic Rivers. The growing outdoor recreation economy in the state supports 172,200 jobs and generates $16.4 billion in consumer spending. River-based recreation on the Rogue River alone accounts for more than $30 million in total economic output and is the backbone of my business. Common sense and well thought out protections like the Wild and Scenic river designation are important for our environment and for creating healthy and sustainable rural economies.
Erik Weiseth, Managing Partner/River Guide, Orange Torpedo Trips - Whitewater Cowboys
For over 50 years, our Oregon based whitewater business has provided jobs to the people, and revenue to the overall economies, of rural Oregon communities. At the heart of our ability to do this has been previously protected Wild and Scenic Rivers. Preserving the splendor of, and our access to, these amazing rivers is critical for our company, critical to future Oregonians who want to enjoy the beauty of this gorgeous state, and to the future vitality of our robust outdoor recreation sector. It is for these reasons we are so grateful to Senator Wyden for his work to increase the number of wild and scenic river miles in Oregon.
Priscilla Macy, Executive Director, Oregon Outfitters and Guides Association
A love for rivers is a value that is deeply embedded in the history, culture and identity of our state — and Oregon is home to some of our nation's most amazing and scenic rivers: from the Illinois to the Umpqua, the Owyhee to the Santiam, we have an impressive diversity of rivers that provide an abundance of opportunities for outdoor recreation, conservation, and board enjoyment by the residents and visitors of our state. Preservation of Oregon’s rivers is a vital part of the state’s outdoor recreation economy which supports 172,000 jobs in Oregon and generates $16.4 billion in economic activity statewide. We applaud Senator Wyden’s continued efforts and advocacy for the preservation of many of Oregon’s exemplary waterways.
The Proposed Expanded and New Wild and Scenic Rivers in Oregon in the River Democracy Act
Expanded Wild and Scenic Rivers
Donner und Blitzen
Eagle Creek (Baker County)
East Fork Hood
Middle Fork Hood River
North Fork Crooked
North Fork John Day
North Fork Malheur
North Fork of the Middle Fork Willamette
North Fork Owyhee
North Fork Smith
North Fork Sprague
South Fork Clackamas
South Fork John Day
West Little Owyhee
New Wild and Scenic Rivers
Bear and Deer Creeks
Bear Creek Headwaters
Black Canyon Creek
Cedar Log Creek
Drift Creek (Siletz)
East Steens Mountain
Fall Creek (Jackson County)
Fall Creek (Lane County)
Forks of Carberry Creek
Forks of the Burnt
Forks of the Walla Walla
Headwaters of Pine Creek
Little North Fork Wilson
Middle Fork Fivemile Creek
Middle Fork John Day
Middle Fork Willamette
North Fork Siletz
North Fork Trask
Oregon Canyon Mountains
Smith (Curry County)
Smith (Douglas County)
South Fork Alsea
South Fork Coquille
South Fork Crooked
South Fork Indian Creek
South Fork Little Butte Creek
South Fork Sprague
Trout Creek Mountains
Upper Klamath Lake Marsh
Upper Warm Springs
West Fork Hood River
West Steens Mountain
Photo: Priscilla Macy on Indigo Creek, a tributary of the Illinois River in the Kalmiopsis region of Oregon courtesy of Northwest Rafting Company.