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Courtney Leads Coalition in Support of Wild and Scenic Rivers Program in FY 2020 Budget

April 2, 2019
Press Release
Sufficient funding for program would ensure conservation plans move forward for Connecticut Rivers

WASHINGTON, DC –Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) today released a letter supported by forty-two Members of Congress urging the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to support increased funding for the National Park Service’s Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers program was created by Congress in 1968 to aid in the conservation of certain rivers with significant natural, cultural, and recreational values so that they remain free-flowing and viable for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

In their letter to the House appropriators, Courtney and the Members of Congress note that the program currently protects 16 nationally-significant rivers and watersheds in the United States, including Connecticut’s Eightmile River, Farmington River, and the newly-designated Lower Farmington River/Salmon Brook and Wood-Pawcatuck Rivers, which joined the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system last month when the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law. Providing sufficient funding for the program would ensure that conservation plans are able to move forward for all of the waterways within the program, especially for the program’s newest waterways, which were not afforded any funding in the President’s FY2020 budget request.

To view the Members’ letter, click here.

“The Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers program has been a successful tool for river and watershed preservation for decades. From the first piece of legislation I got signed into law that designated the Eightmile River to the Wood-Pawcatuck designation that I helped champion last month, Wild and Scenic Rivers have always been a top priority for me and for eastern Connecticut,” Courtney said. “Connecticut is proud to be home to four Wild and Scenic Rivers, but without an increase in appropriations, two rivers will remain underfunded, and two will remain unfunded. Our letter demonstrates a broad coalition of Representatives, and simply requests adequate funding so that the Park Service can continue to operate this successful program. I’m glad to have the support of my colleagues in requesting this funding, it’s clearly the will of Congress that these waterways be protected.”

“Momentum is high for the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers,” said Kassi Archambault, Wild and Scenic River Coordinator for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association. “Residents, partnering organizations and town leaders are all enthusiastic about the designation granted this spring. Projects are ready for building on this community awareness, engaging children in kayaking and education, and improvements to infrastructure at recreation sites.”

"Partnership Wild and Scenic River funding is exactly that – it's a partnership between local communities and the federal government to protect and conserve our river resources,” said Anthony Irving, Chair of the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Coordinating Committee. “Federal support and funding for research, education, and outreach enhances our volunteer efforts to steward these integral natural systems. It's a cost benefit analysis that shows that when federal funding is combined with the thousands of volunteer hours, protection efforts multiply and the costs of stewarding are reduced significantly – and it's done locally by the local citizenry.”

Congressman Courtney has worked to conserve and protect Connecticut’s waterways throughout his career. In 2007, the House of Representatives voted to pass Congressman Courtney’s legislation to secure protections for Eightmile River – the first bill Courtney introduced upon being elected to Congress.

In 2010, Courtney joined Representatives Jim Langevin (RI-02) and David Cicilline (RI-01) to introduce the Wood-Pawcatuck Protection Act, which commissioned a study to determine whether the rivers met the criteria for designation as “Wild and Scenic,” the first step in the process of designating the watershed as part of the program. The bill was signed into law in 2014. In 2018, Courtney, Langevin, and Cicilline first introduced the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act, which sought to designate several waterways within the 300-square mile Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed as part of the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system. The bill was reintroduced in 2019 at the start of the 116th Congress, and was signed into law as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which passed the House last month.