What is meant by the term “non-degradation” in the Interagency Guidelines?

The Interagency Guidelines interpret Section 10(a) of Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (the protect and enhance mandate) as “a non-degradation and enhancement policy for all designated river areas, regardless of classification. . . . Specific management strategies will vary according to classification but will always be designed to protect and enhance the values of the river area.” The overarching goal articulated in Section 10(a) is to protect existing high-quality conditions while improving conditions when unacceptable impacts are documented, thus leaving each river to future generations in better condition than when it was designated.

Non-degradation within the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act’s context is not synonymous with no impact. Non-degradation in the context of a wild and scenic river is assurance that there is no downward trend in conditions that affect Outstandingly remarkable values. As stated in the Council’s technical report (Wild and Scenic River Management Responsibilities): “To achieve a non-degradation standard, the river administering agency must document baseline resource conditions and monitor changes to these conditions.”

Therefore, it is imperative to document baseline conditions, develop management objectives, and establish a monitoring program to ensure that conditions are being met and identify when management action is needed to protect values. The comprehensive river management plan is the appropriate place to articulate the terms and conditions specific to the local conditions/resource values identified for a given river, as well as the solutions needed to mitigate known impacts.

Interagency Wild & Scenic Rivers Council