Save the Illinois River, Inc.
24369 E 757 Rd.
Tahlequah, OK 74464-1949
(918) 284-9440

Origin of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Act

Ed Brocksmith | Oklahoma Scenic Rivers | June 10, 2010

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Hall of Fame

Save the Illinois River, Inc.

June 25, 2010


James B.Townsend, Shawnee, Oklahoma


Jim Townsend served in the Oklahoma House of Representativesfrom 1964-1980.  He was majority floor leader from 1975-1978 and was author of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Act.  It took three years to get enough support to pass the measure.  A visionary for Oklahoma’s rivers, these are his words in March, 1970 during final debate onthe Scenic Rivers Act:


This will be a positive program for Oklahoma, with emphasis on our rivers.  Our goal should be to make the free flowing streams a symbol of the great Oklahoma spirit.


The rivers were the lifelines of our ancestors, providing food to keep them strong, water to cleanse and heal their bodies and beauty to stimulate their minds and spirits.  Their floodplains nourished the animals that provided fur and clothing and shelter.


The sparkling rapids and cool clear holes are mirrors that reflect our past, our present, and our future.  We have a moral obligation to keep them free of the contamination of progress that is based only on material gain.  We must become the first generation of Oklahomans who will put a stop to the rape of our natural resources, particularly our air and water.


Oklahoma’s future is bright only so long as our water is clear and the air is fresh.


As little rain drops of water can make a river rampage and cut a new channel, we as Oklahomans, you and I, must assume our responsibilities and join hands in the common cause of conservation.


Perhaps we’ll have to go on a rampage to develop a new thought channel-environment first, industry second, Oklahoma always.”


Jim served as a member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. He sponsored legislation creating the Oklahoma Department ofTransportation and the Oklahoma Department of Pollution Control and was instrumental in passing legislation for Oklahoma special education for children with learning disabilities and free kindergartens.