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Pingree Introduces Bill to Designate York River as ‘Wild and Scenic’

Late yesterday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced legislation to include the include the York River in the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System.
Washington, D.C.—Late yesterday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced legislation to include the include the York River in the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System. Representative Jared Golden (D-ME) has signed on as an original cosponsor.

“The York River is an incredible asset to the communities it runs through—historically, environmentally, and economically. And through an exhaustive study and public votes, the towns of York, Eliot, Kittery and South Berwick have sent a clear message that they want it to stay that way,” said Pingree. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help them conserve this resource for generations to come. A Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation will bring more assistance and resources to the York River without infringing on local control. My deep thanks to the members of the York River Study Committee and the voters of these communities who decided to move forward with this designation—I think Congress should do the same.”

Background on ‘Wild and Scenic’ Designation
The bill follows a three-year study—funded by legislation that Pingree introduced and Congress passed in 2014—conducted by local stakeholders that recommended the designation. This fall, the voters of York and Eliot overwhelmingly passed referendums to move forward with the Partnership designation, as did the town councils of Kittery and South Berwick. 

Pingree’s bill—HR 1248, the York River Wild and Scenic River Act of 2019—initiates the final step in the process, amending the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to add the York River. It must be passed by Congress and signed by the President.

A Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation could direct more federal funding and technical assistance to the area, while lifting the York River’s profile as a national destination. It also would provide a local forum for the four watershed communities to collaboratively address long-term river stewardship needs.

A designation does not put land under federal control, require public access to private land, change any existing land uses, force any changes in local land use decision-making processes or objectives, create new federal permits or regulations, prevent access to or use of the river or watershed lands, or affect hunting and fishing laws. 

Quotes of Support from Local Stakeholders

Chuck Ott, York River Study Committee Chairman: “The strong public support of our four towns for designating the York River into the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers system underscores the local commitment to protect what we value in the river by working together as neighbors. Our economy, our environment, and our people will benefit for generations to come.”

Karen Arsenault, York River Study Committee member: “It is rewarding to realize that after a ten-year journey focused on gaining support first for a study of the York River and then for designation as a Partnership Wild and Scenic River, our four watershed communities are unified in the ongoing protection of this important resource.” 

Jennifer Hunter, York River Study Coordinator : “The study process affirmed how special the York River is to our region’s character and economy. This 33-square mile coastal watershed contains a unique combination of history, natural resources, and cultural values. The Partnership river designation recognizes and supports communities’ efforts to sustain our healthy and resilient river system.” 
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