Hundreds of Businesses Across Oregon Urge Congress to Pass the River Democracy Act

More than 250 Oregon Businesses thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for working to protect Oregon’s Rivers

Portland, OR (September 29, 2021) – A growing number of businesses from across Oregon support Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley’s River Democracy Act (S.192), and are urging Congress to pass the bill. The legislation that will protect roughly 4,700 miles of rivers as wild and scenic was crafted with the input from Oregonians all across the state.  

letter released today, signed by businesses from every corner of the state ranging from outdoor recreation outfitters to farmers and from restaurants to “mom and pop shops,” states,

“The Oregon economy relies heavily on outdoor recreation, for which clean water and a healthy environment are necessary. Restaurants, hotels, guides, and outdoor adventure stores all rely on protected waters and lands to draw tourism to our state.”   

The legislation was a direct result of a nomination process where Oregonians, including business owners, recommended their favorite rivers and streams for permanent protection. Senator Wyden’s office received over 15,000 nominations for thousands of miles of rivers from residents across the state, showing both the key role these waters play in our communities and the strong local support for protecting them for the benefit of future generations. 

“As small business owners and family farmers it’s imperative we protect these important water sources. Our livelihood to provide Oregon-grown local food depends on the clean, abundant waters from rivers like the Applegate and its tributaries,” said Elise and Jeff Higley of Oshala Farm in Applegate. “This is a food security issue. It is critical that these waters are protected and I want to thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for their vision.”

Outdoor recreation is the backbone of Oregon’s economy.  According to a recent study by Travel Oregon, 95 percent of Oregonians participate in outdoor recreation each year, and in 2019 alone, Oregonians and out-of-state travelers spent $15.6 billion on outdoor recreation and related expenses, supporting 224,000 jobs.

“Having healthy rivers is key to our fifty-five year old Oregon business,” said Zac Kauffman of  Sawyer Paddles & Oars in Gold Hill.  “Now more than ever, people seek to visit the rivers, lakes, and streams of our region, and by protecting Southern Oregon’s rivers, Senators Wyden and Merkley are investing in the economic engine that makes our state run.” 

Currently, only two percent (2,173 miles) of the state’s 110,000 miles of rivers are protected as Wild and Scenic, and the River Democracy Act would increase that to six percent. 

Chris Daughters, owner of the Caddis Fly Angling Shop in Eugene said, “Oregon’s storybook rivers draw people from across the world for all of the recreation opportunities they offer. The protection of these rivers and their stream-side environments ensure certainty into the future for river-dependent businesses like the Caddis Fly Angling Shop, and that is why we commend Senators Wyden and Merkley for moving the River Democracy Act through Congress.”

recent poll found that 87% of likely voters in Oregon supported additional wild and scenic river designations, including 75% of Republican voters. Additionally, 80% said that they would “like to see their representatives in Congress take action to support relevant legislation that strengthens the defense of your state’s rivers and land areas from potentially harmful industrialization and pollution.”

“The protection of our rivers is to us a no-brainer. Wild rivers are an iconic feature of the Eastern Oregon landscape. They are integral to our communities and have been from time immemorial.  The protection of our rivers not only supports a healthy ecosystem, but supports our rural communities through the opportunities they provide for recreation and tourism. At Go Wild, we depend on our protected Eastern Oregon waterways for guided fishing and hiking adventures that for many of our guests are the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the outdoors,” added Dan Sizer, owner of Go Wild: American Adventures in Baker City. 

The River Democracy Act of 2021 is a testament to Oregonians’ commitment to conservation, healthy living, and outdoor recreation.

Rod Bien, the owner of Patagonia Bend added, “We’ve been involved with the River Democracy Act since its very beginning, hosting a nomination event in 2019 that packed our store wall-to-wall with river advocates. Protecting waterways across our state not only safeguards wildlife habitat and clean drinking water for millions of Oregonians, but helps keep businesses like ours thriving as people gear up to get outside and enjoy these wild rivers.”

The roughly 200 businesses who signed the letter today come in addition to the over 50 breweries who sent a letter earlier this summer in support of the legislation. The letter concludes, 

“Thank you for introducing the River Democracy Act of 2021, and know that we the undersigned business owners and employers are thankful for your tireless work on this issue, and stand ready to support this legislation and work alongside you to ensure its passage.”

You can read the letter here