YORK, Maine — The U.S. House the night of March 4 unanimously passed a bill that could lead to the York River being included in the National Park Services Wild and Scenic River program.
The bill, put forward by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, would create a multi-year study to determine if the river could be included in the Wild and Scenic Partnership River program, according to Willy Ritch, spokesman for Pingree.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Pingree said federal designation would protect the river and the economy it supports.
“The most important factor is that many of the hardworking people in this part of the state depend on the York River to support their jobs,” Pingree said, according to a prepared statement. “The York River is a place where people go to work.”
The House unanimously passed Pingree’s bill in 2012, but because the Senate failed to take it up, Pingree had to resubmit the bill again last year. This time, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, has introduced a similar piece of legislation in the Senate.
If the York River receives the wild and scenic designation, it would become an affiliated area of the federal parks system, eligible for longterm funding for programs such as preserving and restoring fish and wildlife habitat, according to Ritch.
The study would find whether the river merits one of the designations under the Wild and Scenic River program: wild, scenic or recreational. Then community members would be able to offer input on whether the designation should move forward. Voters would also be asked to approve the Wild and Scenic Partnership River designation.
The Wild and Scenic River effort has been organized by a number of conservation groups, led by the Friends of the York River, which has been working for three years to get study funding.
Said Friends member Karen Young, “We are thrilled that the York River, a gem in this region, is one step closer to receiving federal recognition and support. Representative Pingree has been such a leader in this effort — she championed and ushered the York River study bill through the House not once but twice. This bill will help bring federal resources already in the National Park Service budget to southern Maine and will hopefully leverage other federal funding in the future.”