McGovern, Markey refile bill to give Deerfield River national designation


Staff Writer

Published: 03-03-2023 2:35 PM

DEERFIELD — U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and Sen. Ed Markey reintroduced a bill Wednesday that would begin the process of designating the Deerfield River as a National Wild and Scenic River.

First introduced by McGovern, D-Worcester, in a July 2022 announcement on the Stillwater Bridge, the legislation would commission a Secretary of the Interior study of the Deerfield River in southern Vermont and western Massachusetts with the goal of adding it to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system.

Chris Curtis, vice president of the Deerfield River Watershed Association, said Thursday that the designation would protect free-flowing sections of the Deerfield River — meaning projects, such as dams, would be forbidden from being constructed there — and bring opportunities for federal funding.

“It provides an opportunity for a planning process to put together a master plan for the river in terms of protecting it for the long haul,” Curtis said. “When the designation is finalized, there’s an opportunity for the river to get federal funding on an annual basis for projects that would improve the river, public access to the river and things like that.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and Becca Balint, D-VT, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, Peter Welch, D-VT, and Bernie Sanders, I-VT.

In a statement, McGovern said the Deerfield River is an essential resource to the region and protecting the environment should be a national priority.

“Every 30 seconds in the United States, we lose a football field-sized area of nature to human development. If we want to have any chance of leaving the world a better place for future generations, we need to make sure that conservation and environmental stewardship are national priorities,” McGovern said.

“It’s time to add the Deerfield River and its tributaries to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Deerfield River is beloved by so many, and the cooperative spirit that exists here is a model for watersheds everywhere.”

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The filing of the bill also advances a grassroots campaign that began several years ago to designate the river as a National Wild and Scenic River. Last year, Franklin County towns along the Deerfield River endorsed the bill, as well as the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), the Deerfield River Watershed Association, the Connecticut River Conservancy and Trout Unlimited’s Deerfield and Connecticut River chapters.

The Interior Department study, which will take at least two to three years to complete, will consider the entire 76-mile length of the Deerfield River and its major tributaries, such as the Green and South rivers, to identify and recommend portions of the Deerfield River that meet the federal government’s criteria. After that, another bill will need to be brought before Congress to officially designate portions of the river.

Curtis said this process was completed for the Westfield River, which was designated as a National Wild and Scenic River in 1993. This designation brings in about $120,000 a year for various projects, such as building trails, improving access areas and public education outreach.

Markey said in a statement that it is imperative the river be preserved because it is a natural and recreational resource for the Connecticut River Valley.

“From whitewater rafting and fly fishing to the adjacent Mohawk Trail, the Deerfield River is an invaluable natural and recreational resource with deep roots in our commonwealth’s history. We must preserve it,” Markey said. “I will continue to fight to safeguard the Deerfield River and preserve it for future generations.”

Curtis thanked the federal representatives for their support on this bill and said he is looking forward to continuing this process.

“It’s been outstanding. Congressman McGovern and Sen. Markey have taken the lead on getting the bill filed,” Curtis said. “Our delegation has done a great job of supporting this and helping to move the process forward, and we’re really excited to be working with them.”


Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.