Yesterday was a big day for conservation, with significant implications Oregon and Colorado. Two pieces of legislation were introduced in the Senate that, if passed, will add nearly 4,700 miles of rivers and streams to the Wild and Scenic Rivers system and 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced the River Democracy Act, which was developed after years of public input. The bill would designate nearly 4,700 miles of Oregon rivers and streams as Wild and Scenic Rivers. This designation is one of the United States’ strongest protections for rivers, and would make Oregon home to the most miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. “Rivers and streams are Oregon’s lifeblood, providing clean drinking water for our families, sustaining our thriving outdoor recreation economy, and nurturing the quality of life that brings new investments, businesses and jobs to our state,” Senator Wyden said.
The protections will have a profound impact on Oregon’s wild fish. The Wild and Scenic River Act preserves certain rivers in their free-flowing condition to benefit recreational, natural, and cultural values. “Oregon’s wild fish and rivers define our landscapes and shared heritage,” says Native Fish Society’s Conservation Director Jennifer Fairbrother. “Conserving these waters for the many values they offer ensures that these rivers can continue to nourish our ecosystems, wild fish, and communities.”
If you follow Colorado politics, you are undoubtedly familiar with the CORE Act, a bill that would add 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado. The bill is tremendously popular among Coloradans, but did not enjoy the necessary political support in previous sessions of Congress. The political dynamics have changed, however, opening an avenue to pass the CORE Act into law. Earlier this week, Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper introduced the bill in the Senate, and Representative Joe Neguse introduced it in the House. Freshman Senator Hickenlooper, who campaigned heavily on passing the CORE Act, said, “Communities across our state have worked for ten years to craft this historic effort to protect public lands. The CORE Act is key to ensuring that future Coloradans inherit both a thriving outdoor recreation economy and pristine outdoor spaces. I look forward to it crossing the finish line this Congress.”
“This legislation is built with support from local communities, businesses, and recreation and sporting groups—a model for the way on the ground conservation should happen,” says Madeleine West, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s center for public lands director. “We want to thank the Colorado delegation for listening to hunters and anglers and working to strengthen habitat for fish and wildlife for future generations.”
These bills will improve fly fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities in Oregon and Colorado. Hopefully, they speed through Congress and become law!