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Carved by six rivers and many creeks and streams, the Santa Lucia Range is best described by its waterways. It is where land and water overlap that life is the richest and most complex. And that, too, is where a river’s greatest value often lies.

Because their upper watersheds are largely undisturbed, these rivers and streams are an important source of clean water for Monterey County residents, farmers, and industries. Their highly productive ecology includes rich riparian habitat, the state’s southernmost redwood forests, and the rare Santa Lucia fir. They provide opportunities for popular outdoor recreation, and they are rich in historic and pre-historic culture. They also provide the best remaining habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, including the Central Coast steelhead trout, California condor, foothill yellow-legged frog, Dudley’s lousewort (a rare native wildflower), and many others.

Although much of the Santa Lucia Range is protected as Wilderness, the rivers deserve the additional protection provided by the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. The Wilderness system prohibits roads, motorized use, and logging, but the Wild & Scenic system helps even more. It requires federal managers to actively preserve the free flowing nature of the rivers and their unique qualities. It specifically protects the rivers for future generations.

A good first step was taken toward this important goal in 1992, when the upper portions of the Big Sur River were added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. When Congress protected the Big Sur River, it directed the U.S. Forest Service to study additional rivers for possible protection.

In that 2005 study, the Forest Service said parts of the Arroyo Seco River, North Fork Little Sur River, and the San Antonio River in the Los Padres National Forest were eligible for Wild & Scenic protection. Yet it recommended that Congress protect only the Arroyo Seco. Friends of the River, the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, and other conservationists who were heavily involved in this process were disappointed by the scant protection proposed.

We are convinced that the following rivers and streams draining the Santa Lucia Mountains are eligible for federal protection because they are free flowing and possess outstanding values: the Arroyo Seco River and its tributaries, Tassajara Creek and Church Creek, Big Creek, Carmel River and Miller Fork, the North and South Forks Little Sur River, Nacimiento River, San Antonio River and its tributaries, San Carpoforo Creek, and Willow Creek.

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