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ID Legislators Show Bipartisan Support for State's Wild Rivers

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho is one of many waterways protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (Zachary Collier/Northwest Rafting Co)
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho is one of many waterways protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (Zachary Collier/Northwest Rafting Co)
March 26, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – As the Idaho legislative session wraps up, lawmakers are giving a parting gift to the state's waterways by commemorating a bill that protects some of its most beautiful rivers.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 132 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, which protects a number of rivers in the Gem State, including the Middle Fork Salmon, Selway, and rivers in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Former Idaho Sen. Frank Church was integral to the bill's passage, which gained near unanimous support in the U.S. Congress. Jonathan Oppenheimer, the government relations director with the Idaho Conservation League, says it still receives bipartisan support in the state.

"The role that Idahoans played in passing that legislation 50 years ago is really remarkable," he says. "And where we see a lot of polarization around environmental issues and agriculture and water use issues, it's encouraging to see the level of bipartisan support that we saw - even in the Idaho Legislature."

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects nearly 13,000 miles of rivers and streams in the country - less than one-quarter of one percent in the U.S., according to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. It keeps these rivers free of dams and other development that might alter these waterways. October 2 will be the 50th anniversary of the bill's passage.

Oppenheimer says it keeps these rivers in their natural state so they can be enjoyed by Idahoans.

"It ensures that the rivers remain free-flowing, which means that you can go out there and enjoy the rivers like they've been flowing for millennia," he adds. "Without reservoirs and pools, and it really helps to preserve the areas adjacent to the rivers as well."

Oppenheimer commends Sen. Mike Crapo for his role in protecting southwest Idaho rivers as wild and scenic through the recommendations of the Owyhee Public Lands Initiative in 2009.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID