Changing Planet

Our next Wild and Scenic Rivers

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Photo: Wendy McDermott, American Rivers.

Seven rivers in five states are closer to permanent protection today, thanks to a package of bills that passed the House in the National Defense Authorization Act.

From Delaware’s White Clay Creek (the site of a recent dam removal), to Oregon’s River Styx (the first underground river protected in the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system) to Washington’s Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt rivers (a wild gem in Seattle’s backyard) to Vermont’s Missisquoi and Trout rivers (the first Wild and Scenic rivers in the state), the safeguards advanced today will benefit clean water, fish and wildlife, river health, and everyone who loves wild places.

This is the first Wild and Scenic legislation to pass the House in five years. If it passes the Senate, these Wild and Scenic designations will protect roughly 140 miles of rivers and more than 17,000 acres of riverside land.

“Protecting healthy, wild rivers is one of the best investments our country can make, and we applaud the House for passing this vital legislation,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “These rivers give us clean drinking water and flood protection, they provide fish and wildlife habitat and recreation, they are living links to our history and heritage, and they are engines that drive local economies. In so many ways, when we protect our rivers, we protect and revitalize our communities.”

The package also includes provisions to study fourteen additional rivers, totaling close to 140 river miles, for possible Wild and Scenic designation. Rivers to be studied include Oregon’s Cave Creek, Upper Cave Creek, Panther Creek, Lake Creek, and No Name Creek, Massachusetts’ Nashua River, Squannacook River, and Nissitissit River, Maine’s York River, and Rhode Island’s Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck rivers.

A Wild and Scenic River designation is the strongest possible protection for a river in the U.S. It preserves a healthy, free-flowing river in its current condition, prohibiting new dams or inappropriate development, and safeguards water quality and riverside land. The designation also provides for the creation of a management plan, in partnership with local communities, to guide protection of special values such as native fish or outstanding scenery.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers system currently protects 12,598 miles of 203 rivers in 38 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico — less than one-quarter of one percent of the nation’s rivers.


Amy Kober is the senior communications director for American Rivers, a national non-profit river conservation organization. She lives in Portland, OR.

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