November’s National Geographic magazine has a fascinating article heralding America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, from the roiling, broiling Rogue River in Oregon and Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho to the moose-haunted Allagash River in Maine (which I paddled years ago). The article includes gorgeous photos that make you want to hop in your car and go there to experience these pieces of America.
Altogether, 200 rivers across the United States and Puerto Rico are protected from damning and over-development under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, passed in 1968 after a decade of political wrangling. Over 60 years later, the foresight behind this idea has benefited all Americans with rivers supporting lots of fish, clean water, eye-catching scenery and incredible recreational opportunities, all strong economic benefits as well.
Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and California have dozens of Wild and Scenic Rivers. Washington has only 6. However, we in Washington now have a golden opportunity to “get our share” and increase the number across America by more than 10 percent. We have the chance to make sure our wild Olympic peninsula rivers get the permanent protection they need so they continue to provide healthy fish populations, clean water, fabulous scenery and great recreation for us, our grandchildren and America’s grandchildren. AND we can exercise that same foresight shown 60 years ago, without impacting a single acre of private land.
The Wild Olympics Campaign includes a proposal for granting Wild and Scenic River designation to the 23 rivers circling the Olympic Mountains, for stretches within the existing public lands only. This will serve to save them from ever suffering the Elwah River’s fate. In the Elwah, millions and millions of fish and untold millions of dollars in fisheries resources have been lost in that system. Now it is costing millions to restore those resources. Fixing things always costs much more than saving them in the first place.
I urge all who love the Olympic Peninsula Rivers or care about their economic resources to get behind the Wild Olympics Campaign for designating them as Wild and Scenic Rivers, permanently.