Attempts to “un-do” a Designated Wild and Scenic River
The Conservation Lands Foundation joined a number of conservation and recreation organizations, businesses, and tribes in sending a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives opposing H.R. 3964 – a terrible bill introduced at the end of January by California House Republicans that would result in “un-designating” the Merced River, an incredible Wild and Scenic river that flows out of Yosemite National Park and through BLM-managed public lands.
The sign-on letter was spearheaded by Friends of the River, a California organization that has done a good job of publicizing and providing ways for people to take action against destructive bills like this one.
Despite strong opposition from diverse constituencies, the House passed H.R. 3964 by a vote of 229-191 on February 5. In addition to stripping Wild and Scenic protections from a half-mile of the Merced River in order to potentially expand McClure Reservoir, the Modesto Bee (CA) reports that the bill would repeal a landmark 1992 law that directs more water to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, repeal a San Joaquin River restoration program that Congress approved five years ago, and affect other irrigation regulations.
The bill would now have to pass the Senate and gain the President’s signature. “Though its real-world prospects are highly uncertain, it definitely makes a political splash,” reports the Modesto Bee.
This bill is especially sinister because it reflects the intentions of some members of Congress who want to “un-designate” our Wild and Scenic rivers—strip them of protections and open them up to engineering and dam development. That’s what this legislation would do to the Merced River.
The National Conservation Lands—an incredible collection of 28 million acres of some our nation’s most magnificent public wild lands managed by the BLM—also includes 69 Wild and Scenic rivers in seven states. You can see a state-by-state listing of these BLM-managed rivers, with the Merced among them. Many of these rivers are flagships of the National Conservation Lands—irreplaceable wild rivers that sustain wildlife and people throughout dozens of watersheds.
The Conservation Lands Foundation along with the 50-plus organizations that are part of the Friends Grassroots Network have worked diligently for the past seven years to ensure the National Conservation Lands and rivers are permanently protected, guided by strong policies at the national level, and have organized, broad public support. We will continue this work—and we will continue to oppose any efforts to “un-do” a Wild and Scenic River.
- Friends of the River has comprehensive information about this issue affecting the Merced—as well as others rivers in California.
- Here is a story about H.R. 3964 in the Modesto Bee.
- Senator Diane Feinstein opposed and responded to H.R. 3964
- Here is an LA Times editorial, “Playing Politics With California’s Drought” published Feb. 3, 2014