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Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Turns 50, Protects Ore. Rivers

More than 80 miles of the Rogue River are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (Scott Cordner)
More than 80 miles of the Rogue River are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (Scott Cordner)
July 26, 2018

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. — The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act turns 50 this year. Conservation groups are praising the law and want to see more of the United States' iconic waterways protected.

Oregon is home to the most rivers with wild and scenic designations. They include the Rogue River - one of the original eight rivers to receive the designation in 1968. More than 80 miles of the Rogue are protected, keeping the river free-flowing in its natural state.

Amy Kober with American Rivers, speaking from the Rogue River's banks, said it's special.

"It has the most fun whitewater. It has the most stunning scenery, the most gorgeous campsites, and the history here too - from the Native Americans to the gold miners and the settlers,” Kober said. “There's no other river like the Rogue."

Local Bureau of Land Management officials say current protections are enough to preserve the Rogue. Conservation groups such as American Rivers and companies including REI are campaigning to protect 5,000 new miles of river, including waterways in the Owyhee Canyonlands and Oregon Wildlands.

Equally important for many of these groups is giving people access to these waters. Luke Argleben is with the Hispanic Access Foundation, which gives outdoor opportunities to under-served Latino communities. He said once you expose kids to a river, the river tends to do the rest.

"It's actually one of my favorite aspects of this job is to watch them fall in love and get that spark in their eye and they go back to their communities and they share their stories and they say, 'Hey, look. There's this awesome place. Let's go!’” Argleben said. “We create advocates. We create stewards."

But David Moryc, senior director of river conservation with American Rivers, said the Rogue River faces threats, including climate change and nearby logging operations. He also noted that while the river itself is protected, many of its tributaries are not.

Moryc said those tributaries are important for salmon, providing cold water when the river heats up.

"It's kind of a refuge for those baby and adult salmon,” Moryc said. “And so there'd be no more fitting legacy for the Rogue than for us to protect more of its wildlands and the tributaries that sort of give it life."

Close to 13,000 miles of river are kept free-flowing through wild and scenic designation nationwide.

In-kind support was provided by American Rivers and OARS.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR