Wisconsin Wild Rivers - a Public Treasure for 50 Years

June 25, 2015

Wendy Gehlhoff

Event details

Saturday, June 13th, 2015 in Florence, WI, more than 60 people came together to celebrate the unique 1965 legislation that passed unanimously in both houses creating the Wisconsin Wild Rivers Act. The statute reads: “In order to afford the people of this state an opportunity to enjoy natural streams, to attract out-of-state visitors and assure the well-being of our tourism industry, it is of state interest to preserve some rivers in a free flowing condition and protect them from development….” Two of the three original rivers, the Pine and the Popple, are located in Florence County; treasures to enjoy for another 50 years. Jeanette Bomberg, Florence County Board Chair, gave the welcoming address at the visitor center.

We were fortunate to have the honor of Keynote speaker Dave Martin attending the event. He was the hardworking assemblyman from Neenah who initiated the Wild Rivers Act legislation in 1965 with help from Robert Hasse of Marinette and Paul Alfonsi from Minocqua. Their idea was to preserve the rivers by proposing that the tourism increase would improve the business climate in Northeast Wisconsin. Martin was proud of the fact that their bill did not receive one opposition vote in either the Assembly or the Senate. Governor Knowles signed the bill into law in November of 1965 leading the way for similar federal legislation that created the Wild & Scenic Rivers in 1968.

Martin also referenced a letter he received from former Governor Tommy Thompson who was not able to attend which read:
“The Wild River Act meets the definition of being both ambitious and simple at the same time. Created to meet the demands of those that admire as well as aspire those with interest, for over 50 years the Wild River Act has preserved state- designated natural streams as they were intended to be enjoyed, unharmed and uninhibited and open for public exploration. The Wild River Act has served as a gift with an immeasurable return-on-investment, or perhaps better said, return-on-preservation. Today I am reminded of the great words of former Governor and Senator of Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, whose efforts to protect the environment and raise awareness remains unparalleled: The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. — (Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin)”

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