Wild & Scenic 50th: An Open Invitation to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
By Steve Markle4 Min. Read
Dear Secretary Zinke,
For 50 years, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has been one of the strongest tools available to protect outstanding, free-flowing rivers. Since its passage, local communities across the United States have used this vital tool to safeguard more than 12,000 miles of free-flowing Wild and Scenic Rivers and 3 million acres of riverside land. Even with this strong effort, less than one percent of America’s rivers remain wild and free from dams and development.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, he said: “Every individual and every family should get to know at least one river.” We couldn’t agree more. Wild rivers, like our public lands, are owned and enjoyed by every American.
We are a country built on the bedrock of our public lands and waters and we are alarmed and distressed by the actions taken by the current administration in recent months that roll back existing protections for the places we treasure. These wild places embody the spirit of adventure and freedom that beats in the heart of every American. At a time when more Americans than ever are visiting our public landscapes, and at a time when outdoor recreation generates $887 billion annually, supporting 7.6 million jobs, we need to be doing more — not less — to save these special lands and waters. River-related recreation alone contributes more than $97 billion annually to the U.S. economy each year and our community is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the outdoor industry.
On October 2nd, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In order to further our own commitment to the preservation of wild rivers, we have joined forces with several of our outdoor industry and conservation partners to launch 5,000 Miles of Wild℠ — an effort to protect 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic rivers in the next five years and share the stories of America’s rivers and the people who love them — everyone from whitewater boaters to anglers and hikers, to veterans and families seeking nature beyond their backyards.
Additionally, we are opening up the great outdoors to kids around the country by getting at least 500 underserved youth out on guided river trips in 2018 — free of charge. Our goal, of course, is to help create and extend the personal connections that people of all ages feel for their wild rivers. Everyone’s story is unique, and if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that the best way to get to know a river is by experiencing it for yourself. We firmly believe that once you know a river, you become a vital advocate for these precious waterways.
Your home state of Montana was where the idea for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was hatched to protect the Middle Fork of the Flathead River from a dam. Whether it’s the Flathead or the Upper Missouri Breaks, Montana is a state defined by its incredible rivers and the deep cultural connection Montanans feel for them. We appreciate your championing the East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in the 114th Congress.
In 2018, we invite you to join OARS on a multi-day river expedition — down a Wild and Scenic River. Think of it as a time to connect with your family on an unplugged adventure, or to get away with your team to build camaraderie and strategize about how best to protect rivers. We would love to hear your river story and share ours with you. We’d be grateful for an opportunity to discuss what the next 50 years for Wild and Scenic Rivers looks like.
Please join us in celebrating the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. We need your voice in support of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System as a critical model for balancing development interests with the clear mandate to ensure that certain special places are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans.
We hope to see you on the river.
OARS Tyler and Clavey Wendt, Brothers and Co-owners | Angels Camp, California
YETI Joe Koehly, Outdoor Marketing Manager | Austin, Texas