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3 minutes reading time (509 words)

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

On October 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which designated the first eight rivers into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and established a process for building a legacy of protected rivers. After careful consideration, rivers continue to be added to the National System; Congress and the people determine which of our remaining free-flowing rivers will be protected.

What Makes a River Wild and Scenic?

Rivers, or sections of rivers, must be free-flowing and possess at least one "outstandingly remarkable" value, such as scenic, recreational, geologic, fish, wildlife, historic, cultural, or other features. Congress or the Secretary of the Interior may add rivers to the growing National System.

Within the National System, three classifications define the general character of designated rivers: wild, scenic or recreational. Classifications reflect levels of development and natural conditions along a stretch of river. These classifications are used to help develop management goals for the river.

What Does the Act Do?

The Act balances the demands for hydropower, flood control, and irrigation with the desire to protect some of this country's most outstanding rivers. The Act's underlying principles:

* Keep designated rivers free-flowing
* Protect outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values
* Allow existing uses to continue where they do not conflict with river protection
* Build partnerships among landowners, river users, tribal nations, and all levels of government

The Act may also:

* Encourage basin-wide management that crosses political boundaries
* Promote public participation in developing goals for river protection
* Offer technical assistance for river conservation
* Improve understanding of river values and processes
* Deepen awareness, acceptance, and appreciation of river conservation

How are Wild and Scenic Rivers Managed?


Where rivers flow through federal lands, the responsible agency takes the stewardship role. Four federal agencies manage congressionally designated rivers:

* USDA Forest Service
* USDI Bureau of Land Management
* USDI National Park Service
* USDI Fish and Wildlife Service

For state-administered rivers, designated by the Secretary of the Interior at a governor's request, a state agency manages the river, sometimes in concert with local governments.

Rivers, however, do not follow neat property lines and stewardship is a responsibility shared by numerous government agencies, tribal nations, private landowners and river users. The framers of the Act recognized this; Sections 11 and 12 encourage cooperative management among the many players in a watershed.

What are the Dimensions of the National System?

More than 160 rivers in 38 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico comprise the National System. More than 11,000 river miles are protected, just over one-quarter of one percent of the nation's rivers. There is great geographic diversity, from the remote rivers of Alaska, Idaho and Oregon to rivers threading through the rural countryside of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ohio. So too there is great diversity in the type of these rivers, which range from cascading mountain streams to blackwater rivers in the Southeast. Each preserves a part of the American story and heritage.

To Find Out More

To find out more about the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, visit: http://www.rivers.gov/

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