Senators Wyden and Merkley Re-introduce River Democracy Act in Congress

Tumalo Falls, a scenic waterfall outside of Bend, spills over a rocky wall into a forested creek below.


Oregon rivers received big news in recent weeks when Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley re-introduced the River Democracy Act in Congress! This historic bill (S. 4449) would expand Oregon’s network of Wild & Scenic Rivers by 3,215 miles, providing new safeguards for clean drinking water sources, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat in key watersheds across the state like the Deschutes, Rogue, Grande Ronde, John Day, Clackamas, McKenzie, and many others. The bill also had a successful subcommittee hearing shortly after reintroduction. 

The River Democracy Act is the result of a groundbreaking grassroots river nomination process, years of vetting, and the work of hundreds of activists and river enthusiasts advocating for their backyard rivers, drinking watersheds, fishing holes, hiking trails, kayak routes, and love of the wildlands and rivers of Oregon. In the course of developing this bill, Senator Wyden received 15,000 river nominations from the public! 


1.3 million Oregonians will see increased safeguards for their drinking water from this legislation. This includes cities like Bend, Eugene, Medford, Oregon City, and many more. Also protected are numerous popular fly fishing streams like the Fall River and North Santiam, world-class whitewater runs in the Rogue River basin, and miles and miles of critical salmon and wildlife habitat.

When passed, the River Democracy Act would become Oregon’s largest river conservation feat to date, more than doubling the mileage of protected streams in the state. That would mean families could create new memories fishing for salmon on the South Fork Alsea River, the water managers for Eugene won’t need to worry as much about runoff and increased filtration costs from clear-cuts in the McKenzie watershed, and kids can glimpse their first elk migrating through a protected wildlife corridor along Tumalo Creek near Bend.

Oregonians have made their voices heard. Over 300 Oregon businesses, 50 breweries, 75 community organizations, 26 fish biologists, hundreds of anglers, and thousands of individuals have signed on in support of the River Democracy Act. 


With the current and impending threats of climate change, mining, aggressive logging, and unchecked development impacting Oregon’s rivers and watersheds, the time to act is now. The River Democracy Act is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do that. Join us in thanking our Senators for their efforts to advance this important legislation, and urge them to get this bill across the finish line.

Latest News

Join Our

Staying informed is the first step to becoming a public lands and native wildlife advocate.

Skip to content