Small Town News

Land Management

Scenic label close for creek

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

- Advertisement -

Fossil Creek is one step closer to federal protection this month after the U.S. Senate passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act with a vote of 73-21.

The act includes 167 bills to expanded wilderness protection across the Western United States,

The legislation would call for the unique springs and streams of Fossil Creek, 14 miles east of Camp Verde, to be designated a Wild and Scenic River, a federally-protected status that would strive to keep the creek's waters flowing for future generations.

The creek is home to several native species of fish, including speckled dace and chub. Efforts have been ongoing to protect the native fish from non-native species that have been competing with them for food and space, according to the National Forest Service.

The creek is also one of the few waterways in Arizona with year-round flows.

For nearly a century, the creek was home to hydroelectric power plants that hampered the natural flow of water. The facilities were recently decommissioned and have been in the process of deconstruction.

With Senate approval, the act can now move to-the House of Representatives for a final vote to make it official. Aside from Fossil Creek, the measure would also add more than 2 million acres to federally protected wilderness and over 1,000 miles of rivers and waterways.

It's been a hard-fought battle, said Camp Verde Mayor Tony Gioia, who has spent time in Washington, D.C., lobbying for the measure. Gioia said he doesn't think the act will have too much difficulty passing the House.

The measure to protect Fossil Creek was put forward by former Rep. Rick Renzi; the efforts were derailed when Renzi started to face serious political problems of his own.

Gioia said the effort was finally successful with the help of other politicians, including Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva and Republican Sen. John McCain.

There was also plenty of push for the measure by groups like the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Gioia said, which laid much of the groundwork, along with many others.

"It's been two and a half years in the making," Gioia said.

Now Gioia said he wants to work to get the same protection for the lower Verde River; parts of the upper Verde have already been designated Wild and Scenic.

"We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Senate, particularly the bipartisan nature of the vote by those senators who recognize the importance of permanently protecting these treasures for all Americans," said Richard Moe, president of National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement released by his office.

"These are some of the last places where people can experience the history and wild beauty of the American West."

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects 11,000 miles of 165 rivers in 38 states and Puerto Rico. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, that's about one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation's rivers.

Copyright 2009 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 4, 2009

More from The Camp Verde Journal