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November 18, 2021

King-Led Effort to Designate York River as “Wild and Scenic” Passes Key Senate Committee with Broad Bipartisan Support

National Parks Subcommittee Chairman Senator King championed the community-backed effort to provide York River with federal protection & funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, today celebrated the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee’s bipartisan passage of his legislation to designate the York River as part of the National Park System’s “Wild and Scenic” Rivers program. The designation would protect the river and surrounding areas from development and provide important federal funds to the region. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for full consideration.

“The York River has long played an important role in communities across Southern Maine, and is one of our state’s most outstanding natural resources. It’s critically important that local York communities can protect the river and watershed areas for future generations to come – and I’m committed to supporting their efforts,” said Senator King. “Today’s vote advancing our bipartisan, bicameral legislation designating the York River as a Wild and Scenic river is a testament to the dedication of the York community – who’ve worked tirelessly to secure the designation – and the remarkable nature of the river. I’m grateful that this legislation is progressing through Congress, and will continue fighting to secure its final passage.”

“We are incredibly happy to learn of today's legislative progress and know we are another step closer to achieving designation for York River,” said Jennifer Hunter, York River Wild and Scenic Study Coordinator. “The river, its marsh system, and its watershed are directly linked to recreation, our economy, critical wildlife and marine habitats, and resilience to increasing climate-related stressors, all of which relate to community well-being. Wild and Scenic River designation will enhance local efforts to maintain a healthy river ecosystem capable of sustaining important community values into the future.” 

Earlier this year, Senator King, along with Senator Susan Collins and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, introduced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to create the designation. This bill followed a three-year study – funded by legislation that Senator King introduced in 2013 – conducted by local stakeholders which recommended the designation. In 2018, the voters of York and Eliot overwhelmingly passed referendums to move forward with the designation, as did the town councils of Kittery and South Berwick. Senator King recently pushed for the designation in a Subcommittee on National Parks hearing.

A ‘Wild and Scenic’ river designation would direct federal funding and technical assistance to the area, while still ensuring that decisions about the river’s health and future are made at the local level. The designation will also elevate the York River’s profile as a national destination, in addition to providing a local forum for the four watershed communities to collaboratively address long-term river stewardship needs. 

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