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November 12, 2010: Lame Ducks and California Rivers

Lame duck (definition from Merriam-Webster): an elected official or group continuing to hold political office during the period between the election and the inauguration of a successor; one whose position or term of office will soon end.

After a bruising general election in November, Congress will meet in a lame duck session to address unfinished business. In addition to a continuing resolution to keep the government funded and proposed continuation of Bush-era tax cuts, the lame duck session may include natural resources legislation that will protect many California rivers.

Congress may consider existing legislation that could protect more than 163 miles of California rivers, and may even see more river protection bills introduced.  It’s also possible that the session may feature an omnibus package of public lands bills, similar to the bill that passed in March 2009 that protected more than 105 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers in California.

FOR’s river protection agenda for the lame duck Congress’ includes:

The California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (S. 2921: Feinstein)  Includes more than 70 miles of new Wild & Scenic Rivers, including stretches of Deep Creek, Holcomb Creek, and the Whitewater River in the San Bernardino Mountains; an addition to the Amargosa Wild & Scenic River in the Mojave Desert, and Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Mountains.  The bill also protects thousands of acres of desert habitat and recreation lands in new Wilderness and National Monuments.

The Big Sur Forest Service Management Unit Act of 2009 (H.R. 4040: Farr) Includes more than 90 miles of new Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey County.  Segments include the Arroyo Seco River and tributaries, Carmel River, San Antonio River and tributaries, Big Creek, and San Carpoforo Creek.

The Sacramento River National Recreation Area Act of 2010 (S. 3879: Boxer) Protects 17,869 acres of public lands along the Sacramento River, lower Battle Creek, and Paynes Creek as a National Recreation Area. The bill would conserve, protect, and enhance the riverside lands and to protect and promote their outstanding recreational, ecological, fish and wildlife, geological, scenic, cultural, and historic resources.  Although not a Wild & Scenic River bill, the legislation’s proposed National Recreation Area would protect more than 30 miles of streams and adjacent federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management between Redding and Red Bluff.

The Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act of 2009 (H.R. 4304: Issa) Adds more than 21,000 acres to the existing Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness areas in northern San Diego County. FOR is lobbying to include potential Wild & Scenic Rivers to the bill, including segments of San Mateo Creek, Santa Margarita River, San Luis Rey River, and the San Diego River Gorge.

The lame duck Congress may also see introduction of new legislation for California rivers.

Representative David Dreier intends to introduce a Wilderness protection bill for the eastern portion of the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California.   FOR has proposed that the bill include protection of more than 40 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers, including segments of the San Gabriel River, San Antonio Creek, and Middle Fork Lytle Creek.  Rep. Dreier’s staff have indicated that the bill will likely call for the completion of the Forest Service’s Wild & Scenic River study of these streams, which was truncated in the 2005 Plan for the Angeles National Forest.

Representative Elton Gallegly is considering a comprehensive Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers legislative proposal for the southern Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Potential Wild & Scenic Rivers that could be considered in the legislation include additions to the existing Piru Creek and Sespe Creek Wild & Scenic Rivers (protected in 2009 and 1992 respectively), as well as Matilija Creek, Mono Creek, and Indian Creek.

FOR and the Foothill Alliance have also asked our Senators to consider sponsoring legislation to protect more than 37 miles of the Mokelumne River in Amador and Calaveras Counties.  The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has proposed raising Pardee Reservoir, which could drown more of this river, segments of which are recommended for Wild & Scenic River protection by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Action on any of the existing or proposed bills in a lame duck session is difficult to predict. If none of the bills are approved this year, we expect the legislative sponsors to reintroduce the bills in 2011. For more information, contact Steve Evans at Friends of the River, (916) 442-3155 x221.

Thank Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein for Introducing the Sacramento River National Recreation Area Act - Click here to take action.

Please send short and separate letters TODAY to Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein, thanking them for introducing S. 3879, the Sacramento River National Recreation Area Act of 2010.  Note that this important bill will protect the outstanding recreational, scenic, and other natural resources of the Sacramento River, lower Battle Creek, and Paynes Creek.  Urge the Senators to take advantage of the lame duck congressional session after the election to move the bill.  Fax your letters to Senator Boxer at (415) 956-6701 and to Senator Feinstein at (202) 228-3954, or visit to send an electronic letter.

For More InformationFor more information, contact Steve Evans at Friends of the River, (916) 442-3155, Ext. 221

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