What factors are considered in the suitability evaluation and determination process?

As provided in Sections 4(a) and 5(c) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the following factors should be considered and, as appropriate, documented as a basis for the suitability determination for each river.

  1. Characteristics which do or do not make the area a worthy addition to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. These characteristics are described in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (see factors 2 through 7) and may include additional suitability factors (8 through 13).

  2. The current status of land ownership and use in the area.

  3. The reasonably foreseeable potential uses of the land and water that would be enhanced, foreclosed or curtailed if the area were included in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

  4. The federal agency that will administer the area should it be added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

  5. The extent to which the agency proposes that administration of the river, including the costs thereof, be shared by state and local agencies.

  6. The estimated cost to the United States of acquiring necessary lands and interests in lands and of administering the area should it be added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

  7. A determination of the degree to which the state or its political subdivisions might participate in the preservation and administration of the river should it be proposed for inclusion in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

Additional suitability factors may also be considered by the interdisciplinary team. The following is not all inclusive; other factors may be developed for a particular river study. Possible considerations include:

  1. An evaluation of the adequacy of local zoning and other land use controls in protecting the river’s outstandingly remarkable values by preventing incompatible development. This evaluation may result in a formal finding that the local zoning fulfills Section 6(c)’s requirements, which in turn preempts the federal government’s ability to acquire land through eminent domain if the river is designated.

  2. The state/local government’s ability to manage and protect the outstandingly remarkable values on non-federal lands. This factor requires an evaluation of the river protection mechanisms available through the authority of state and local governments. Such mechanisms may include, for example, statewide programs related to population growth management, vegetation management, water quantity or quality, or protection of river-related values such as open space and historic areas.

  3. Support or opposition to designation. Assessment of this factor will define the political context. The interest in designation or non-designation by federal, state, local and tribal governments and national and local publics should be considered, as well as the state’s political delegation.

  4. The consistency of designation with other agency plans, programs or policies and in meeting regional objectives.  Designation may help or impede the “goals” of other tribal, federal, state or local agencies. For example, designation of a river may contribute to state or regional protection objectives for fish and wildlife resources. Similarly, adding a river which includes a limited recreation activity or setting to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System may help meet statewide recreation goals. Designation might, however, limit irrigation and/or flood control measures in a manner inconsistent with regional socioeconomic goals.

  5. The contribution to river system or basin integrity. This factor reflects the benefits of a “systems” approach, i.e., expanding the designated portion of a river in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System or developing a legislative proposal for an entire river system (headwaters to mouth) or watershed.  Numerous benefits are likely to result from managing an entire river or watershed, including the ability to design a holistic protection strategy in partnership with other agencies and the public.

  6. The potential for water resources development. The intent of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act is to preserve selected rivers from the harmful effects of water resources projects. Designation will limit development of water resources projects as diverse as irrigation and flood control measures, hydropower facilities, dredging, diversion and channelization.
Interagency Wild & Scenic Rivers Council