One year with the River Democracy Act

The beautiful blue-clear waters of the McKenzie River

It’s February in 2022 - the one year anniversary of the introduction of the River Democracy Act! This bill is special, to be sure, and is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect some of Oregon’s most special rivers and streams.

From cold, clear creeks where steelhead spawn in Southwest Oregon, to the beautiful high elevation lakes lining the Central Cascades, to the rivers and streams that have cut deep canyons into Northeast and Southeast Oregon, there is truly something for every landscape in this bill.

Salt Creek Falls, proposed for Wild & Scenic protections

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced this bill in the Senate precisely one year ago today, after completing a months-long public nomination process where they solicited suggestions from Oregonians across the state. A winter 2019 “Rivers Town Hall” meeting hosted by Sen. Wyden in Bend was so popular that it was standing room only - people were so excited to submit their favorite places for consideration! All told, their office received more than 15,000 nominations, a clear testament to our state’s love for rivers. 

After a year of public process and thorough vetting of rivers and streams, the River Democracy Act came to life. Since its introduction, it’s been assigned to a Senate subcommittee, received its first hearing, and is currently awaiting full committee markup. We hope to see passage in 2022! 

"We all live downstream. And the River Democracy Act makes sure that the clean water, wildlife habitat, and scenery upstream from us all over the state is protected for future generations."

-  Sean Stevens, Executive Director

There are truly so many reasons to be excited about this bill. If you care about salmon, lamprey, elk, freshwater mussels, songbirds, or even just having a place to enjoy with your family and friends, this bill is something to celebrate.

Indigo Creek, proposed for Wild & Scenic protections. Photo: Northwest Rafting Company

Here's what a few other Oregon Wild staffers have to say about the bill: 

"I love that this bill will protect clean water and fish, but also really love that it means protecting vast amounts of carbon stored in the forests along these streams. " - Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Program Manager

“I'm excited to see many of my favorite hiking trails - all over Oregon - included in proposed Wild & Scenic River corridors. From the Walla Walla River in northeast Oregon to Gwynn Creek on the coast, there are so many trails that deserve the additional recognition and protection the River Democracy Act affords.” - Chandra LeGue, Western Oregon Field Coordinator

"I grew up wading barefoot through the shimmering waters that run through the Ochoco Mountains. These memories are incredibly precious to me, and it's exciting to see the small, out-of-the-way places that aren't just important to me, but to the fish and wildlife of Central Oregon, proposed for permanent protection." Arran Robertson, Communications Manater