Waterway Conservation and Outdoor Industry Leaders Launch 5,000 Miles of Wild Campaign

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Pinball Rapid on the North Umpqua, OR by Thomas O'Keefe

On October 2, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wild and Scenic River Act in order to protect free-flowing rivers nationwide. It is under this piece of legislation that we credit the protection of over 12,700 miles along 208 rivers and 3 million acres of riverside land, not to mention the scenic, recreational, wildlife, and cultural values that come along with it.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the act, conservation and outdoor industry leaders have launched the 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign as a way to further emulate the spirit and utility of the act today. The campaign is a coalition of some of the leading voices and companies in the industry including American Rivers, American Whitewater, NRS, OARS, YETI, REI, Chacos and Chums. Together they plan to secure river protection in our country for the next 50 years and beyond.

“In an era when public lands and clean, healthy waters – concepts we once took for granted in America – face grave threats, we must renew our commitment as a nation to protecting free-flowing rivers and wild places for generations to come,” said Mark Deming, NRS Director of Marketing.

Rafting on the Skagit River by Thomas O’Keefe

Over the next five years, the grand plan of the campaign is to save 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers along with one million acres of public land.

“As Americans prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, we all need to be doing more, not less, to protect the rivers that give us clean drinking water, unsurpassed recreation opportunities, fish and wildlife habitat, and that connect us to our shared natural heritage,” said Chris Williams, Senior Vice President for Conservation for American Rivers. “We’re proud to partner with conservation and outdoor industry leaders to advance a bold vision for the next 50 years of river protection.”

The 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign plans to achieve their goals by advancing pieces of legislation in Congress that ensure river protection and safeguard public lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

“While we’ve made a lot of progress for river protection over the years, today less than one percent of America’s river remain wild and free,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. “The recreational opportunities rivers provide represent a source of inspiration and enjoyment for many Americans that provides real economic benefits to local communities. With new proposals for dams and resource development that threatens rivers, realizing the vision of protecting our nation’s remaining free-flowing rivers remains just as important today as it was half a century ago.”

Rafting the Mckenzie River by Thomas O’Keefe

Most importantly, the campaign seeks to remind Americans of the profound significance that our river systems have on all our lives. The campaign will do this by collecting and sharing 5,000 river stories from a public that demonstrates relentless support for river protection.

“America’s rivers are foundational to the outdoor life we love at REI,” said Marc Berejka, Director of Community and Government Affairs at REI Co-op. “They give us clean drinking water, sustain healthy ecosystems for fish and wildlife, and help anchor the nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. We look forward to connecting communities with the outdoors and protecting the places we love to explore through the 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign.”

Ultimately, the campaign understands that the future of our river systems and public lands lies in the hands of the youth. As such, the campaign will be getting more than 500 young stewards out on river trips.

“This is about the legacy we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren,” said Steve Markle, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at OARS. “In our line of work, we’re privileged to experience the magic of rivers every day and we see how these special places positively impact lives. We have a responsibility to ensure all Americans, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, have the opportunity to enjoy abundant, clean, free-flowing and wild rivers for generations to come.”

Thus far, efforts on rivers including Washington’s Elwha, Montana’s headwater streams in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Crown of the Continent, Colorado’s Deep Creek, and the pristine streams in the forests of North Carolina are underway.

To get involved, check out https://www.5000miles.org.