The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bonnie Rice, American Rivers,    206-931-9378
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-243-7023

House Passes Legislation to Designate Illabot Creek as Washington State's newest Wild and Scenic River

Federal legislation would result in permanent protection


The House of Representatives passed legislation today to designate
Illabot Creek, a key tributary of the Skagit River, as a Wild and
Scenic River. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-2nd) introduced the
legislation, H.R. 1593, in March. Washington Senators Patty Murray and
Maria Cantwell have sponsored a companion bill, S. 635, in the Senate.
The Obama Administration expressed support for both bills during
hearings in July.

"We are thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed this
important legislation. Illabot Creek is one of the most important
tributaries in the entire Skagit system for salmon and bald eagles, and
it is key to the overall health of Puget Sound. We are grateful
Washington's leaders have recognized the outstanding qualities this
amazing creek has to offer," said Bonnie Rice, American Rivers
Associate Director of Conservation.

"I have seen first-hand how important it is to protect the Illabot
Creek habitat for endangered fish and wildlife," said Rep. Rick
Larsen. "This Wild and Scenic designation will benefit not only
endangered species such as Chinook salmon, but also families who hunt,
fish, and hike near this pristine creek."

Over the past two years, with The Nature Conservancy and other
partners, American Rivers has been working to ensure that Illabot Creek
remains wild and free-flowing forever. Illabot Creek is a special haven
for two of the Northwest's beloved icons - salmon and eagles. Flowing
from Snow King Mountain at nearly 7,500 feet high in the Cascades and
tumbling all the way down to join the mighty Skagit River at 500 feet,
the creek is crucial spawning habitat for wild Chinook salmon,
steelhead and bull trout, all federally listed as threatened, as well
as pink, coho, sockeye and chum salmon. It is home to one of the
largest bull trout populations in Puget Sound. Large numbers of
wintering bald eagles roost at night in the stands of mature and
old-growth forest along the creek and the stream produces a significant
percentage of the salmon that feeds the eagles that congregate in the
Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area.

In the past, there have been several hydropower projects proposed on
Illabot Creek that represented a serious risk to its thriving fish and
wildlife populations. Wild and Scenic designation would block dams and
other harmful water projects while also protecting stream flows and the
clean water that Illabot Creek provides. Protection of headwater
streams like Illabot that provide cold, clean water is increasingly
important in the face of climate change.

The designation would also complement salmon recovery efforts in the
Skagit basin and would help to protect the many investments that have
been made to conserve the lands adjacent to Illabot Creek and bring
them into public ownership.

Wild and Scenic designation can bring economic benefits to the
surrounding region as well by supporting outdoor activities and tourism
and protecting quality of life. A diverse array of community members
has come together to support the designation of Illabot Creek as a Wild
and Scenic River, including the Skagit County Commissioners, Western
Washington Agriculture Association, Fidalgo Fly Fishers, Seattle City
Light, Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington
State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and many recreational fishing
and paddling groups.

A significant portion of the Skagit River and three of its major
tributaries - the Sauk, Suiattle, and Cascade Rivers - were designated
in 1978 as National Wild and Scenic Rivers.

American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.