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For Immediate Release, March 25, 2009

Contact:  Sam Frank, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, (928) 830-8499
Michelle Harrington, Center for Biological Diversity, (602) 628-9909
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790

Fossil Creek Protected as Wild and Scenic River:
Omnibus Public Lands Bill Heads to President's Desk

PHOENIX, Ariz.— The House of Representatives today voted 285-140 to approve the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which grants a federal “wild and scenic river” designation for Arizona’s restored Fossil Creek. The Senate approved the bill last week, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The bipartisan H.R. 146 safeguards more than 1,100 miles of rivers in Arizona, Utah, California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Massachusetts, and includes important protections for 350,000 acres of land along 86 new wild and scenic rivers.

Fossil Creek photo © Robin Silver.

“Fossil Creek will finally get some of the recognition it deserves as Arizona’s second congressionally designated wild and scenic river,” said Sam Frank, Central Arizona director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.

Fossil Creek is a major tributary of an existing wild and scenic river, the Verde, and forms the boundary to the Coconino National Forest on the north and the Tonto National Forest on the south. It also forms the boundary between Gila and Yavapai counties and flows through two congressionally designated wilderness areas — Fossil Springs Wilderness and the Mazatzal Wilderness.

“The restoration of the creek has been wildly successful since water was returned to the creek in summer 2005,” said Michelle Harrington, Center for Biological Diversity rivers conservation manager. “Several species of imperiled native fish have been reintroduced. And the travertine deposits are growing, making Fossil Creek the poster child for restoration and conservation in Arizona.”

Despite the success of restoration, management of Fossil Creek as a recreational destination has remained two steps behind, and the creek is in danger of being loved to death. Designation of Fossil Creek as wild and scenic, though, requires that the U.S. Forest Service prepare a management plan and use its authority to protect the outstanding values of the creek, something conservation groups have long sought.

“This is great news for Fossil Creek, for our native fishes, and for future generations,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “Fossil creek is an amazing ecological wonder; a ribbon of life in an arid land.”

A wild and scenic river designation protects riverside land along both sides of a river corridor, and blocks dams and other harmful water projects. It helps protect and improve clean water, as well as the river's unique historic, cultural, scenic, ecological, and recreational values.


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