If we asked you to set aside the last several surreal months of national politics and share your opinion on who has been our most “Wild President,” Jimmy Carter might not be the first name that springs to mind. But, when it comes to Wild & Scenic Rivers and the critical protections that give our annual spring film festival its name, Carter is wild, indeed.
Having grown up on a creek as lover of fishing, water and nature, Carter was and is a passionate and sometimes unheralded environmentalist. But it wasn’t until the future 39th POTUS paddled the Chattooga River’s Bull Sluice—in 1974 while serving as Governor of Georgia—that he came to understand the power of a wild river. “It opened my eyes to the relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had before,” Carter says in the film, which chronicles how Carter and Claude Terry, Co-Founder of American Rivers, achieved the first tandem canoe descent of the Bull Sluice Rapid.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (WSR), created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of all now and in the future, will mark its 50th anniversary in 2018. Looking forward to that milestone, President Carter and American Rivers are aiming to protect 5,000 additional miles of wild American rivers. River lovers are encouraged to share #MyRiverStory at 5000miles.org to participate in this effort.
And what spurred Congressional action in 1968 to protect these magnificent waterways? Well, as with most river stories worth telling there were many factors at play…and also a connection to our wonderfully watery state of Wisconsin. In 1965, The Wild Rivers Act—a trailblazing piece of state legislation that helped shape the tradition and practice of conservation in Wisconsin—passed our state legislature with unanimous support. Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to have a wild and scenic rivers law and set the stage for other states and the federal government to follow suit.
We hope you’ll join us at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, where activism gets inspired, to see the The Wild President and a whole host of other engaging and thought-provoking films.