Obama Backs Rivers

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The Obama Administration recently listed river recreation as among the top ten priorities of a new federal action plan for reconnecting people with nature through human-powered outdoor recreation.

The report summarizes the results of listening sessions held around the country last summer and fall as the Obama administration sought public input on its action plan for America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The report reflects the robust participation of the whitewater paddling community for heeding the call and standing up at the listening sessions to be the voice of rivers.

“The vast majority of Americans are a short drive from a river or stream where they can paddle a boat” says American Whitewater Executive Director Mark Singleton. “Supporting river recreation is easy: Citizens just need public access, adequate clean water, a compelling landscape to paddle through and information on flows and rivers.

“We’re excited about the Administration’s support for public enjoyment of our nation’s vast network of rivers and streams. American,” he adds. “Whitewater shares these interests. We have been working to protect river recreation opportunities since 1954, and our website promotes river recreation through describing over 6,000 whitewater river reaches.”

The report highlights the vital role of the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program and a fully funded Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in promoting public river access. “We work with RTCA and count on LWCF for countless river access projects,” says Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director Dr. Thomas O’Keefe, “Establishing public access to rivers like Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Crooked River is an ongoing goal that full funding of LWCF will help us accomplish.”

The report also proposes to bring a new emphasis on river conservation and restoration into the management of federal lands and waters. This emphasis will prove invaluable in efforts of American Whitewater and our community partners to designate the last best rivers Wild and Scenic, to remove outdated dams like those on Washington’s Elwha and White Salmon Rivers, and to protect recreationally, ecologically, and economically vital river flows in states like Colorado.

“Rivers like the Upper Colorado River are core to the culture and economy of our state,” says Nathan Fey, American Whitewater’s Colorado Stewardship Director. “We are heartened that this report signals support from Secretary Salazar for protecting flows in this iconic and invaluable river. Federal leadership is essential to inspiring action in the basin, and to protecting the Colorado River in perpetuity.”

“Placing a priority on river enjoyment, conservation, and restoration will enhance the ability of Americans to connect with our great outdoors through the incomparable recreation experiences that rivers offer,” said American Whitewater National Stewardship Director Kevin Colburn. “We look forward to working with the Administration through the proposed AGO Council and the Let’s Move Outside! initiative on behalf of rivers today and for future generations.”