Introduction by Agate
“The need to protect such magnificent resources as the St. Croix demands imaginative legislation.” (Gaylord Nelson, September 8, 1965, Congressional Record)
In these times, it’s good to remember that the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act passed in 1968 with support from both sides of the aisle. Prior to the final voice votes that sent the legislation to President Johnson for signing, the penultimate bills in the House and Senate passed resoundingly, respectively (267 -7) and (84-0).
It’s nice to think it was because fishing lines were stronger than party lines. The congressional record suggests that it wasn’t quite so simple as that. The outcome was not assured; it was earned.
The National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act will have its 50th anniversary in 2018, but Agate is celebrating early to honor those who were in the trenches years before its passage: refining policies, developing language, overcoming differing priorities and engaging in thoughtful discussion—all in the shared interest of preserving our nation’s wild rivers.
As early as January of 1965, in the 89th Congress, Senators Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and Walter Mondale of Minnesota introduced a bill to establish the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The bill successfully passed in the Senate. While it did not succeed in the House during that session, it laid important groundwork for the upper St. Croix’s inclusion among the first 8 rivers designated under the 1968 Act as well as the selection of the lower St. Croix for study and later (1972) designation.
With this collection of outstanding St. Croix Valley images by photographer Bruce Leventhal, we reflect on what Senator Gaylord Nelson called the “magnificent resources” of the St. Croix. It is a story that begins at the river proper but extends to the broader river valley ecosystem in all its rich biodiversity. Through Leventhal’s lens—informed by his perspective as a field biologist and teacher—we see this larger river with new eyes. We see the dynamic nature of the river itself, defining its shoreline; the colonial waterbirds and other migrants that return each spring; the mosaic of native plant communities that occupy the river valley landscape; keystone species such as the beaver creating the conditions on which a host of other species depend; the utter brilliance of life at every scale.
With gratitude to all those who worked so hard—and continue to work—to keep it so.
Viva la Croix!
About the Photographer
Bruce Leventhal’s photography has been featured by The Nature Conservancy, Nature Photographer Magazine and throughout the web. Leventhal holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology with a focus in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior from the University of California Irvine and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. He currently teaches high school biology in Forest Lake, MN where he relies on stories of travel and nature to make biology real for his students.
He and his wife, Tamy, are both avid photographers. As their website states, “We hope that our pictures carry a message that inspires others to conserve and preserve the planet’s physical and biological diversity.” Their words of encouragement? “Leave the comfort of your reality… Grab the gear… Get dirty… Explore the planet…Tell a story.”
Read more: Find an interesting summary of the Wild & Scenic River Act and its passage in the 1968 CQ Almanac.