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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

York River is Good Candidate for Wild and Scenic Study

Posted by | June 13, 2014 | Filed under: Program Activities

Cover of Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the York River, prepared by the National Park Service, 2013A National Park Service (NPS) survey of the York River completed at the end of 2013 determined that “segments of the York River exhibit free-flowing character and noteworthy natural, cultural, and recreational resource values [and would] likely meet eligibility criteria for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”

The preliminary findings of the NPS survey validated the efforts of the Friends of the York River, which since 2009 has been working toward getting a law passed by the U.S. Congress that will allow a comprehensive study of the York River. Such a study would determine whether the river's designation under the wild and scenic program is appropriate for the affected towns and the nation.

The 24-page Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the York River examines the natural, cultural, historical, recreational, and scenic resources of the river. It also looks at water flow and quality, protected land, and research studies and assessments. After this preliminary analysis, the NPS found:

…all of the elements for a successful Study process appear to be in place for the York River. The local stakeholders have indicated an interest in pursuing a York River watershed-wide Study approach and the NPS concurs that this would be an appropriate study methodology for the York River. If a Study is authorized by Congress, the NPS believes that the use of the established Partnership Wild and Scenic River Study process, in close cooperation with the towns of Eliot, South Berwick, Kittery and York, the State of Maine, and other local and regional stakeholders would be an effective approach.

The York River runs 11.25 miles through Eliot, York, and Kittery from its headwaters at York Pond to its mouth at York Harbor. It is a natural resource long recognized for its significant natural, historical, and scenic values. The main stem and its tributaries have extensive and pristine salt marshes and tidal flats supporting abundant and diverse fisheries. Acres of adjacent woodlands provide important buffers and travel corridors for terrestrial wildlife. The river is appreciated by boaters, anglers, wildlife watchers, and sightseers.

In recognition of the rich natural resources and their value to people and wildlife, the Wells Reserve has been working with communities, organizations, and individuals since 2001 to study and assess the watershed, and plan and protect it.

Since the spring of 2009, the Friends of the York River (with the active participation of the Wells Reserve) has been exploring whether the NPS’s Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers Program is an appropriate fit for the river and the communities through which the river flows.

The effort gained traction when U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Angus King submitted Wild and Scenic Study Bills (H.R.2197 and S.1520) in this Congress last year. The House bill passed on March 4; both bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. If passed by Congress, a Study Bill would commission a NPS-funded in-depth study to evaluate whether the York River qualifies as a Wild and Scenic Partnership River within the Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and whether the program is right for the communities of York, Eliot, and Kittery. The study would entail assessments of history and archaeology, ecology and biodiversity, fisheries, water quality, land use, and other topics.

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