Leading Active Campaigns

Washington

Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (H.R. 2765, S. 1254)

Why Protect: Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula includes free-flowing rivers that babble through ancient forests. Such stunning scenery not only provides world-class recreational opportunities for whitewater boaters and hikers, it protects critical salmon and steelhead habitat and safeguards clean drinking water sources. With a history of more than ten years of grassroots support, this bill would designate 19 new Wild and Scenic Rivers, plus their tributaries, 464 river miles in total, and more than 125,000 acres of wilderness.

Update: This legislation was introduced as H.R. 2765 by Representative Kilmer and S. 1254 by Senator Murray on April 20, 2023. The Senate Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittee held a hearing on July 12, 2023 that included testimony on S. 1254. S. 1254 bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on December 14, 2023 with a 10-9 vote.

Contact: 

Thomas O’Keefe, [email protected], with American Whitewater

Learn More: Wild Olympics website

Oregon 

River Democracy Act

Why Protect: This bill designates 3,215 miles of rivers in all corners of Oregon to expand recreation access, protect drinking water, reduce wildfire threats, and sustain endangered fish and wildlife species. The bill also requires federal land managers to assess wildfire risks in Wild and Scenic River corridors and encourages them to develop river management plans in collaboration with tribes, ensuring tribes have a voice in how rivers are managed.

Update: This bill was introduced as S. 192 by Senator Wyden on February 2, 2021. The Senate Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing on June 23, 2021 and markup on July 21, 2022. Advocates are pursuing reintroduction in 2023.

Contact: 

David Moryc, [email protected], at American Rivers
Tom O’Keefe, [email protected], at American Whitewater
Brett Swift, [email protected], and the Pew Charitable Trusts

Kayakers on a river

Smith River National Recreation Area Expansion Act (S. 162, H.R. 6595)

Why Protect: This bill expands the Smith River National Recreation Area by 58,000 acres, which would protect the diverse ecosystems of the rivers, streams, and adjacent lands of the North Fork Smith River watershed, and help boost the local fishing and recreation industries that many Oregon families rely on.

Update: This bill was introduced in the Senate as S. 162 by Senators Wyden and Merkley on January 21, 2023 and in the House as H.R. 6595 on December 5, 2023 by Representatives Hoyle and Huffman.

Contact: Grant Werschkull, [email protected], at the Smith River Alliance

Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act / Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 440, H.R. 5004)

Why Protect: This bill designates 60,000 acres of wilderness, 128,000 acres of new riverside recreation areas, and a permanent mineral withdrawal for 101,000 acres at the headwaters of several Southwestern Oregon wild and scenic rivers.

Update: This bill was introduced in the Senate as S. 440 by Senators Wyden and Merkley on February 15. 2023 and in the House as H.R. 5004 by Representatives Hoyle and Huffman on July 27, 2023.

Contact: Barbara Ullian, [email protected], at Friends of the Kalmiopsis

California

Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (S. 1776, H.R. 3700)

Why Protect: From fog-shrouded redwood forests to crystalline turquoise pools, Northern California is home to some of the most stunning landscapes. This bill protects local wild lands, expands recreational opportunities, and restores impacted watersheds by designating 379 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers, establishing eight new wilderness areas and expanding nine existing ones.

Update: This legislation was introduced as H.R. 3700 on May 25, 2023 by Representative Huffman. On May 31, 2023, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act; California Coastal Heritage Protection Act; and San Gabriel Mountains Protection Act were packaged together as S. 1776, the PUBLIC Lands Act, introduced by Senator Padilla. The Senate Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittee held a hearing on July 12, 2023 that included testimony on S. 1776. S. 1776 passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on December 14, 2023 by a 10-9 vote.

Contact: 

André Sanchez, [email protected], with CalWild

Ron Stork, [email protected], with Friends of the River

Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (S. 1776, H.R. 2545)

Why Protect: The product of years of discussion and negotiation between business leaders, conservationists, elected officials, ranchers, mountain bikers and other stakeholders, this bill will ensure clean water for thriving communities, protect critical wildlife habitat and stimulate a vibrant local economy. It safeguards 159 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, designates nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness and creates two new scenic areas in California’s Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Update: This legislation was introduced as H.R. 2545 on April 10, 2023 by Representative Carbajal. On May 31, 2023, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act; California Coastal Heritage Protection Act; and San Gabriel Mountains Protection Act were packaged together as S. 1776, the PUBLIC Lands Act, introduced by Senator Padilla. The Senate Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittee held a hearing on July 12, 2023 that included testimony on S. 1776. S. 1776 passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on December 14, 2023 by a 10-9 vote.

Contact: 

André Sanchez, [email protected], with CalWild

Ron Stork, [email protected], with Friends of the River

San Gabriel Mountains Protection Act (S. 1776, H.R. 3681)

Why Protect: Despite nearby gorgeous rivers, forests and mountains just to the north, Los Angeles residents are some of the most park-poor in the country. This bill spurs outdoor recreation by connecting park-poor areas, especially BIPOC and historically marginalized communities, to open space. It establishes a National Recreation Area along the San Gabriel River, protects 45.5 miles of rivers in Southern California, designates more than 30,000 acres of wilderness and expands the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

Update: This legislation was introduced as H.R. 3681 on May 25, 2023 by Representative Chu. On May 31, 2023, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act; California Coastal Heritage Protection Act; and San Gabriel Mountains Protection Act were packaged together as S. 1776, the PUBLIC Lands Act, introduced by Senator Padilla. The Senate Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittee held a hearing on July 12, 2023 that included testimony on S. 1776. S. 1776 passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on December 14, 2023 by a 10-9 vote.

Contact: 

André Sanchez, [email protected], with CalWild

Ron Stork, [email protected], with Friends of the River

Montana

Montana Headwaters Legacy Act (S. 3346)

Why Protect: The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is an insurance policy on some of the most prized and iconic waterways that will guarantee that these streams flow freely and securely within their banks for generations to come. These wild waterways provide clean drinking water to cities and towns, irrigation for crops that feed residents and visitors alike, and provide limitless opportunities in the state’s flourishing $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy. This bill designates 336 miles on 17 streams in the Greater Yellowstone and Missouri headwaters.

Update: This legislation was introduced by Senator Tester on November 27, 2023.

Contact: 

Scott Bosse, [email protected], with American Rivers
Charles Drimal, [email protected], with Greater Yellowstone Coalition

Learn More: Montanans for Healthy Rivers website

New Mexico

greater gila river

M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act (S. 776, H.R. 1611)

Why Protect: The Gila River is the largest remaining, free-flowing river system in Southwestern U.S. It emanates from our nation’s first Wilderness Area, championed by Aldo Leopold in 1924. It provides critical habitat for threatened Gila trout, is a source of clean water for agriculture and wildlife, and supports New Mexico’s $2.3B outdoor recreation economy. This bill designates roughly 450 miles on 31 river segments and protects 144,000 acres of riverside lands.

Update: Senators Heinrich and Lujan introduced S. 776 and Representatives Vasquez, Stansbury, and Leger Fernandez introduced H.R. 1611 on March 14, 2023.

Contact: Mike Fiebig, [email protected], with American Rivers

Colorado

Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act (S. 636, H.R. 1534)

Why Protect: This bill would create a 68,000 acre National Conservation Area and Special Management Area on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands and protect the free-flowing character of 76 miles of the Dolores River.

Update: This bill was introduced on March 2, 2023 as S. 636 by Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and on March 10, 2023 as H.R. 1534 by Representative Boebert. The Senate Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittee held a hearing on July 12, 2023 that included testimony on S. 636. S. 636 passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on December 14, 2023 by voice vote.

Contact: 

Mike Fiebig, [email protected], with American Rivers

Massachusetts

Deerfield River

Deerfield River Wild and Scenic River Study Act (S. 608, H.R. 1312)

Why Protect: With rapids from Class II-V, the 76-mile Deerfield River offers perhaps the best whitewater boating and rafting in Massachusetts. It is also an excellent trout fishery, with some of the best dry-fly fishing for wild trout in the East. The historically significant Mohawk Trail ran along the river and was a principal Indigenous travel route. This bill initiates a wild and scenic river study of the river.

Update: This bill was introduced on March 1, 2023 as S. 608 by Senators Markey, Warren, Sanders, and Welch and H.R. 1312 by Representatives McGovern, Neal, and Balint. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing on June 21, 2023 that included favorable testimony about this bill.

Contact: Deerfield River Watershed Association, [email protected]

Learn More: Deerfield River Watershed Association website

Vermont

Nulhegan River

Nulhegan River and Paul Stream Wild and Scenic River Study Act (S. 432, H.R. 1063)

Why Protect: One of Vermont’s most wild rivers, the Nulhegan River drops through a basin of thick forests and boreal wetlands. The Nulhegan River was named after the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk. “Nulhegan” translates in the Abenaki language to “Place of Fish Traps” for the bounty found there. This bill initiates a wild and scenic river study on a 22-mile segment of the Nulhegan River and an 18-mile segment of the Paul Stream.

Update: This bill was introduced on February 15, 2023 as S. 432 by Senator Welch and on February 17 as H.R. 1063 by Representative Balint. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing on June 21, 2023 that included favorable testimony about this bill.

Contact: Vermont River Conservancy

Emerging River Protection Efforts

It takes years for a river protection campaign to build the political and grassroots support necessary for legislation. These campaigns represent emerging efforts that will one day be ready for Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation.

Alabama

  • Little Wild and Scenic River – The Little River flows for 65 miles on top of Lookout Mountain in northeastern Alabama, sculpting a system of canyons that exceed 600 feet in depth and creating one of the deepest river gorges in the eastern US. The shallow, rocky riverbed is home to rare and endemic plant species such as Kral’s water-plantain and green pitcher plants. World-class whitewater paddling and canyon rim and waterfall sightseeing are important recreational opportunities. Future legislation would initiate a wild and scenic river study and ultimately designation of the Little River as a Partnership Wild and Scenic River.

Arizona

  • Upper Verde Wild and Scenic River – The 38-mile Upper Verde River, located east of Paulden to the town of Clarkdale, is one of the most clean, healthy, economically important, and culturally significant free-flowing rivers remaining in the state. The Wild and Scenic eligible Upper Verde River has been found to possess Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs) for Culture (54 sites), Scenery, Native Fish (10 species), Wildlife (17 species), Recreation (12 listed types), Geology, and Botany. Maintaining and enhancing these values is vitally important to help to address biodiversity loss, climate change, aridification, ecological fragmentation, and ever-increasing development in the region. 

Colorado

  • Crystal Wild and Scenic River – The 39-mile Wild and Scenic eligible Crystal River, south of Carbondale, begins in the snow-capped peaks of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The scenery, historic, and recreational ORVs inventoried in the river corridor add to the deep cultural, native fish, and wildlife values that draw residents and visitors to the valley. A facilitated, multi-stakeholder process exploring Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River began in Spring 2023.
  • Deep Creek Wild and Scenic River – The 15-mile Wild and Scenic eligible section of Deep Creek, flowing from Deep Lake through a 2000-foot deep gorge in the Flat Tops Plateau, is a largely undisturbed environment featuring a high variety of karst caves and rock formations. The ORVs Deep Creek possesses are its ecological condition—it contains several state and globally rare species along with occurrences of very high-quality natural communities; its scenic canyon with very little disturbance from human activity; and finally, the geologic values associated with cave formations within the canyon. A stakeholder process is working on draft bill language.

Montana

  • Crown of the Continent Wild and Scenic RiversThe rivers and streams of the Crown of the Continent region of Montana flow from or near the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park and support thriving fish and wildlife communities and a bustling recreation economy. Overall, 325 miles on 23 streams in the Flathead and Clark Fork river headwaters are deserving of Wild and Scenic River protections. Originally proposed for designation as a package along with the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, these two campaigns were separated. Legislation has not yet been drafted and community support is still being garnered.

North Carolina

  • Nolichucky Wild and Scenic River – One of the last free-flowing southern rivers, the Nolichucky Gorge flows between Poplar, NC and Erwin, TN. As a regionally-known fishing and whitewater recreation destination, protecting the river safeguards wildlife habitat and vital businesses in an economically-depressed area. Future legislation would designate 7 miles of the Nolichucky Gorge flowing through Forest Service lands as wild and scenic.

Taking Action

Annually during Wild and Scenic Rivers Hill Week and routinely throughout the year, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition expresses support for the advancement of river campaigns. Below are collaborative letters delivered to Congress by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition at key points during the movement of Wild and Scenic Rivers bills, and others that affect rivers, through the legislative process during this, and the previous, Congressional session:

Recent Successes

Although a broad-scale public lands and waters package did not materialize during the previous session, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition celebrates the successes of our member organizations, partners, and Congressional Champions in enacting these laws:

  • Designations
    • York Wild & Scenic River: 38.5 miles of York River and its tributaries in Maine were designated as a recreational Wild and Scenic River as part of the 2023 Omnibus spending bill enacted in December 2022.

    • Housatonic Wild & Scenic River: Four sections of the Housatonic River in Connecticut totaling 40.3 miles were designated as recreational and scenic Wild and Scenic Rivers as part of the 2023 Omnibus spending bill enacted in December 2022.

    • Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam Sacred Lands Act: Enacted in December 2022, this law will return 1,031 acres of land along California’s Klamath and Salmon Rivers to the Karuk Tribe. This land transfer will allow the Karuk Tribe to conduct World Renewal Ceremonies and other acts of religious and cultural significance without interruption or interference while maintaining Wild and Scenic River protections.
  • Studies
    • Little Manatee River Study: 51 miles of the Little Manatee River, one of the most pristine blackwater rivers in the state of Florida, will be studied to assess inclusion within the Wild and Scenic River System as part of the 2023 Omnibus spending bill enacted in December 2022.

    • Kissimmee River Study: 50 miles of the Kissimmee River, a restored wetland at the heart of water supplies for central Florida, will be studied to assess inclusion within the Wild and Scenic River System as part of the 2023 Omnibus spending bill enacted in December 2022.