Historic Day For Protection: President Obama Signs Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Expansion


Signing ceremony for Wild & Scenic Rivers Act expansion, March 30, 2009. Image credit:Rebecca Wodder

Today, President Obama signed into law the second largest Wild and Scenic Rivers package in history. Today's law expands the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System by more than 50 percent, bringing the total number of Wild and Scenic Rivers to 252.This afternoon, I had the high honor of attending the presidential signing ceremony at the White House. It was thrilling to hear the President speak of rivers and water resources in an era of climate change and of fish returning to "rivers that have not seen them in decades."

American Rivers' founding purpose was to protect the last best rivers in America through the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the only law like it in the world. This is like a "national park" system for rivers, recognizing and protecting the best rivers for Americans today and all future generations.

Three years ago, as we looked forward to the 40th anniversary of the creation of the System, we set ourselves an ambitious goal — to designate 40 new rivers in honor of the 40th anniversary. Not only did we meet that goal, but we exceeded our highest expectations by more than doubling that number and adding 86 rivers to the System.

As our former board member, Charles Kuralt, was fond of saying, "America is a great story and there's a river on every page of it." He also said:

If you are in search of the authentic America, seek out the little river that runs under the bridge at Concord. Pay your respects to the Suwannee, the Shenandoah, the Appomattox. Walk in the grass beside the Little Bighorn. Spend an afternoon waist deep in the Henrys Fork with a fly rod in your hand, in the fall, when the trumpeter swans fly low over the river.
In 100 years, thanks to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the work of American Rivers and our dedicated partners across the country, his words will still be true. So, let's take a moment to celebrate and reflect on this enormous accomplishment — for the ages.

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