In Mariposa County, Calif., just west of Yosemite National Park, the Merced River flows into the Central Valley from the Sierra Nevada mountains, a 145-mile stretch that provides jobs and recreation for the area. The "Wild and Scenic" moniker the river owns is not just a colloquialism; it's a legal distinction intended to protect the river as it exists in nature.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was signed in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson to protect rivers with extraordinary cultural, scenic or recreational value. But right now, the Merced is in danger from a bill trying to strip away its protection as a Wild and Scenic River in order to raise a dam. This could flood almost a mile of one of California's last, best, free-flowing rivers for a small increase of water storage. Plus, raising the spillway and inundating the Wild and Scenic River would also impact endangered wildlife, such as the limestone salamander, which is protected under California state law.
A petition from American Rivers on TakePart.com is asking President Obama to oppose H.R. 934, vetoing it if necessary.
Less than one percent of rivers nationwide receive the Wild and Scenic distinction. American Rivers believes those that do should be protected from obstructions that would destroy their ecological significance and threaten their wildlife.
If you agree, sign the petition before June 3 and help American Rivers reach their goal.
Jonathan Harris is Participant Media’s Director of Digital Social Action. He previously managed online campaigns for the Participant films Waiting For "Superman," The Help and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. See him try to be funny on Twitter @countrycaravan.