This week, retired Wisconsin legislator Spencer Black published a column in the Madison newspaper The Cap Times celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
Black reports that he canoed and camped on the Namekagon River — the largest St. Croix River tributary and part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway — and experienced its wildness and wildlife earlier this summer.
There are times to be grateful for the good deeds of years past. One of those times came earlier this summer when I spent several days paddling my canoe down the Namekagon River in northwestern Wisconsin.
The Namekagon is protected as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. That unit of our national park system protects 255 miles of the St. Croix River and its major tributary, the Namekagon. The riverway preserves an area that still retains much of the wild feel and biological diversity of our northwoods before development — where the sounds are of water rushing, birds singing, and big pines rustling in the wind. It is home to a wide variety of animals, fish and birds. During our paddle, we often sighted bald eagles, mergansers, egrets, herons, osprey, and numerous other species.
Like so many of our special places, the natural condition of these rivers was once almost lost to development projects. However, two forward-looking senators, Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and Walter Mondale of Minnesota, worked to protect this unique resource. Their advocacy led to passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
The writer also noted that many protections for rivers, lakes, wetlands, and other waters in Wisconsin are currently being diminished by the administration of Governor Scott Walker.
Black represented the Madison-area in the state assembly for 26 years, where he was chair of the Natural Resources Committee and the minority leader. He is vice president of the national Sierra Club and is adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at the UW-Madison.