Congress may classify the river upon the date of designation or authorize classification by the managing agency.  In the latter case, managing agencies have one year to finalize the boundary, identify the appropriate classification, and publish a notice in the Federal Register.  The agency has three years to complete a management plan.  For Section 2(a)(ii) rivers, classification would be established when the Secretary of the Interior designates the river.

No restrictions to private lands may be applied under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Comprehensive river management plans may establish goals for new construction consistent with classification. There is a wide range of uses compatible with these classifications so long as the overall values and character of the river corridor is maintained. Any effect on private lands would be through state or local zoning. Federal acquisition of lands or development rights would require landowner compensation.

Camping is often important to the enjoyment of wild and scenic rivers. As appropriate, and when private interests do not provide sufficient facilities, the federal managing agency attempts to provide them on federal lands. As a condition of use, consistent with river classification and the management objectives for the river area, the managing agency may specify that camping will be permitted only in designated locations. Enforcement of camping restrictions and limitations can be through indirect means (brochures, maps, signs, etc.) and/or direct means (permits, enforcement personnel, etc...

River access is evaluated in the land use planning process.  Specific access needs for public enjoyment, as well as any limitations, are determined in the river management plan.  In keeping with the requirements of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, “wild” rivers are generally inaccessible, except by trail (no roads); “scenic” rivers are accessible by road, which generally don’t parallel the river; and “recreational” rivers may have parallel or crossing road and railroad access.

River segments may be tentatively classified for protective management purposes prior to a final suitability determination and/or congressional action.  This ensures that river values and characteristics are protected (subject to agency policies and standards) until the evaluation process and possible designation is completed.

No, not unless necessary to protect public safety, the river’s water quality, or other resource values. Recreational use of our nation’s rivers is increasing in both magnitude and extent, i.e., the types of recreational activities pursued and the technologies being used. Whether and how to restrict recreational use is a key issue in the planning process, which includes extensive local, regional, and national public involvement.

Yes.  For purposes of eligibility evaluation, the volume of flow is sufficient if it is enough to sustain or complement the outstandingly remarkable values identified within the segment.  Rivers with intermittent or non-perennial flows exist within the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System and may be representative of rivers within particular physiographic regions.

Landowners can charge a fee for crossing private lands to fish, except where a public access easement exists. The designation of a wild and scenic river does not change landowner rights unless all, or a portion of those use rights, are acquired from the landowner.

Wild and scenic river study reports are prepared in three instances:

  1. When Congress authorizes a study pursuant to Section 5(a) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

  2. For eligible rivers that have also been determined suitable by a federal land management agency pursuant to Section 5(d)(1) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, when the agency deems it appropriate to forward the recommendation.

  3. For state-nominated Section 2(a)(ii) rivers, the National Park Service prepares a report determining whether the candidate river meets the requirements of...

Yes. Legal descriptions along with a map are submitted to Congress in accordance with Sections 3(b) and (c) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and are retained by the administering agency. Requests for maps should be made to the agency field offices which administer the specific study or designated river(s).

A Section 5(d)(1) study river is protected to the extent of each study agency’s authority and not by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Each agency’s policy is to protect eligible rivers and rivers determined suitable for designation for the life of the respective agency land use plan. A river determined not suitable for designation need no longer be protected as a potential addition to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System once the study, with its related decision document, is completed.

Once such a river segment has been found to be ineligible, the agency will manage the river and its corridor based on the underlying management direction in its programmatic plan and need no longer protect it as a potential wild and scenic river.

To be eligible for designation, a river must be free-flowing and contain at least one "outstandingly remarkable value," i.e., scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar value.

Prior to 1986, Section 3(b) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act required the river-administering agency to “prepare a plan for necessary developments in connection with its administration in accordance with such classification.” Through a generic amendment of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1986, Section 3 was amended with a new subsection requiring a “comprehensive management plan . . . to provide for protection of the river values” (Section 3(d)(1)). The comprehensive river management plan (CRMP) must address:

  1. Resource protection;

  2. Development of lands...

The need to clarify a segment division should be identified as a management concern/public issue during the planning process and considered in establishment of the initial boundary. The proposed clarification associated with establishment of initial boundaries must be undertaken with full public input and disclosure and is often completed during development of the comprehensive river management plan (CRMP).

In rare instances where the agency did not define the segment division to fit on-the-ground practicalities (e.g., a terminus described in legislation as “from the bridge”...

Under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, designation neither gives nor implies government control of private lands within the river corridor. Although many rivers include private lands within the boundaries of the designated river area, management restrictions would apply only to federal lands. The federal government has no power to regulate or zone private lands under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act; however, administering agencies may highlight the need for amendment to local zoning (where state and local zoning occurs). People living within a river corridor may use their property as...

Upon congressional authorization for a study (Section 5(a)) or by federal agency initiative (Section 5(d)(1)).

Generally, existing livestock grazing practices and related structures are not affected by designation. The Interagency Guidelines state that agricultural practices should be similar in nature and intensity to those present in the area at the time of designation, and that grazing may be compatible with all river classifications (wild, scenic or recreational). Grazing and other public uses may occur in a wild and scenic river corridor as long as the uses do not adversely impact or otherwise degrade the values for which a river was designated.

Timber management activities on federal lands outside the corridor are managed to protect and enhance the values that caused the river to be designated. Measures needed to protect and enhance the river’s values are developed through the river planning process and include management direction as necessary for lands adjacent to the corridor.

Wild and scenic river designation seeks to protect and enhance a river’s current condition. Generally, the classification of the river reflects the level of development at the time of designation, and future development levels must be compatible with such classification. Any proposed new developments on federal lands must be guided by land use and resource management objectives that are compatible with the river’s classification.

Timber management activities on non-federal lands within wild and scenic river corridors are guided by state and local authorities. Under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the only way the federal government can restrict private timber management is through purchase of timber rights (in easement or fee title). The river manager may provide technical assistance and/or work with state/local governments to protect river values.

Under Section 5(a), Congress directs that a study be conducted on identified river segments (usually within three years).  The designated federal agency conducts a study and subsequently reports its findings through the appropriate Secretary.  As a general rule, where joint agency jurisdictions are involved, the cooperating agencies coordinate their efforts prior to making recommendations or submitting reports.

Under Section 5(d)(1), federal agencies are directed to identify and evaluate potential additions to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System through agency...

Prior to completion of the CRMP, proposed projects and new decisions (e.g., issuance of a special-use permit) on federal lands are evaluated by the wild and scenic river-administering agency to ensure they protect and, to the extent possible, enhance river values (free-flowing condition, water quality and outstandingly remarkable values). The necessary evaluation framework is a detailed description of the existing conditions of these values at the time of designation. Absent this information it may not be possible to evaluate the effects of an activity relative to the non-degradation and...

Local government entities are encouraged by federal wild and scenic river-administering agencies to provide for the protection of wild and scenic river values in their land use plans, including the use of zoning and other land use measures. Their participation in development of the comprehensive river management plan (CRMP) in areas of mixed ownership is essential to ensure an enduring planning strategy that protects river values and respects the rights of landowners. In some cases, local governments have chosen to strengthen land-use requirements during a wild and scenic river study, in...

Yes. Section 6(b) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act specifically prohibits the use of condemnation for fee title purchase of private lands if 50 percent or more of the acreage within the boundaries on both sides of the designated river is in public ownership (i.e., owned by the federal, state, or local government). In addition, Section 6(a)(1) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act prohibits acquiring more than 100 acres per river mile within the corridor, which equates to a stip of land about 400-feet wide along both sides of the river. Fee title condemnation is allowed to clear title or...

Benefits may include, but are not limited to, providing managers tools or mechanisms to protect free-flowing condition, i.e., protection of river values through the assessment of hydroelectric facilities or water resource development projects within the designated reach; protection and enhancement of water quality and outstandingly remarkable values; and, if a river’s management plan objective, promotion of economic development, tourism, or recreational use. Based on current limited studies, indications are that property values remain stable or increase on designated rivers. This is often...

Regardless of the study agency’s eligibility and suitability findings, a Section 5(a) study river is protected by the conditions and restrictions specified in Sections 7(b), 8(b), 9(b), and 12(a) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act during the period of the study, plus up to three years after the required report is submitted to Congress. In other words, these protections are independent of the recommendation of the study, allowing for Congressional consideration.

For state-designated rivers, a governor may submit an application to the Secretary of the Interior under Section 2(a)(ii) of the Act.  If found eligible, and if sufficient protection is afforded by the state, the Secretary may make the designation.  Rivers designated in this manner continue to be administered by the state (sometimes with assistance from local governments), except for any federal lands along the river.  If there are federal lands located along the river, the state and federal river-administering agencies may enter into an agreement to outline federal/state...

Generally, no. Restrictions on public boating access and the implementation of entry permit systems (rationing and/or allocation) are not usually related to designation. Limitations on boating usually relate to the amount of use and/or types of user. Those rivers with use levels or types of use beyond acceptable limits (i.e., resulting in impacts to the values) may necessitate restricted access regardless of designation.

Yes, but with many restrictions. It is important to note that condemnation is a tool that has been used only rarely on wild and scenic rivers. The objective of wild and scenic river designation is to protect and, as possible, enhance the values which caused the river to be designated. Should some proposed or actual use clearly threaten the values the river was designated to protect, the river managing agency would work with a landowner to explore ways to avert the threat through local zoning, state provisions, land exchanges, or purchases on a willing-seller/willing-buyer basis....

The need to clarify the terminus should be identified as a management concern/public issue during the planning process and considered in establishment of the initial boundary. The proposed clarification associated with establishment of initial boundaries must be undertaken with full public input and disclosure and is often completed during development of the comprehensive river management plan (CRMP).

In rare instances where the agency did not define the terminus to fit on-the-ground practicalities (e.g., a terminus described in legislation as “from the dam” included a dam and dam-...

Due to the dams, diversions, and water resource development projects that occurred from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, the need for a national system of river protection was recognized by conservationists (notably Frank and John Craighead), congressional representatives (such as Frank Church and John Saylor), and federal agencies.  The Act was an outgrowth of the national conservation agenda of the 1950’s and 1960’s, captured in the 1962 recommendations of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission.  The Act concluded that selected rivers be preserved in a free-flowing...

Yes, if they are consistent with management objectives for the river and do not degrade water quality or the outstandingly remarkable values for which the river was designated.

Once such a river has been found eligible, the federal study agency should, to the extent it is authorized under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and subject to valid existing rights, ensure the river and the surrounding area are protected as a potential wild and scenic river pending a suitability determination.

Yes. Regardless of whether a river is designated as a wild and scenic river, states have special responsibilities and management constraints with respect to state-owned lands underlying navigable waters. These special responsibilities arise from the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires states to exercise regulatory authority over navigable riverbeds to ensure that the paramount right of public use of the rivers and riverbeds for navigation, commerce, recreation, and related purposes is not substantially impaired. As a matter of common law, the states hold lands...

Citizen stewards are increasingly important in protecting wild and scenic river values, often through river-specific or regional stewardship organizations. Individually, or through nonprofit entities, citizens help survey and monitor resource conditions, provide interpretive and education opportunities, contribute to restoration efforts, and support many other protection activities.

The priority date is the date the river was added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

 

Water law is a complex legal area, and water rights are a highly contentious issue. Whenever a water allocation issue arises, a river manager should consult with staff with water rights expertise and, as necessary, seek legal counsel.

Designation may cause an increase in use along the river as new visitors seek it out. However, the wild and scenic river management requirements should ensure that any such increase will not damage resources on private property. If anything, there will be increased oversight after designation, discouraging littering, trespass and vandalism. Private landowners may continue to post their property with “No Trespassing” signs or require users to obtain landowner permission.

Protective management of federal lands in the river area begins at the time the river segment(s) has been found eligible.  The free-flowing condition, identified outstandingly remarkable values, and classification are protected to the extent authorized under law and subject to valid existing rights.  Affording adequate protection requires sound resource management decisions based on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis.  Protective management should be initiated by the administering agency as soon as eligibility is determined.  Specific management...

Yes, per Sections 3(b) and 15(1) for rivers designated by Congress under Section 3(a), but not for rivers designated by the Secretary of the Interior under Section 2(a)(ii). For 2(a)(ii) rivers, states and/or local government set the boundaries, if any, for rivers in their systems; these rivers are not subject to Section 3(b) or the 320/640-acre limitation.

Yes. Under Section 5(a) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the public is involved in the study of rivers authorized by Congress. The report associated with a congressionally authorized study addresses subjects such as current status of land ownership and use in the area; reasonably foreseeable potential uses of land and water which would be affected by designation; the federal agency to administer the river if designated; and the ability of, and estimated costs to, state and local agencies to participate in the administration of such rivers. The public and state, local and tribal...

No. The United States determines the quantity necessary to protect flow-dependent outstandingly remarkable values.

 

Water law is a complex legal area, and water rights are a highly contentious issue. Whenever a water allocation issue arises, a river manager should consult with staff with water rights expertise and, as necessary, seek legal counsel.

WSR designation seeks to protect and enhance a river’s current natural condition and provide for public use consistent with retaining those values. Designation affords certain legal protection from adverse development, e.g., no new dams may be constructed, nor federally assisted water resource development projects allowed that are judged to have an adverse effect on designated river values. Where private lands are involved, the federal managing agency will work with local governments and owners to develop voluntary protective measures.

Section 6(c) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act states:

. . . the appropriate Secretary shall issue guidelines, specifying standards for local zoning ordinances, which are consistent with the purposes of this Act. The standards specified in such guidelines shall have the object of (a) prohibiting new commercial or industrial uses other than commercial or industrial uses which are consistent with the purposes of this Act, and (b) the protection of the bank lands by means of acreage, frontage, and setback requirements on development.

The Wild...

No. Navigability determinations are based on factors other than wild and scenic river designation. Because of this, designation does not affect ownership of the submerged lands [or minerals lying] under the river.

Once rivers have been evaluated and determined eligible for further study, agencies conduct an evaluation to determine if the rivers are “suitable” or “not suitable” for wild and scenic river designation within their resource or land management planning processes (Section 5(d)(1)), or usually as a separate study for congressionally authorized studies (Section 5(a)). In each process, the benefits of protecting river values are weighed against other resource values, issues and alternatives.

Either process is typically accompanied by an environmental document, normally an...

The communities of interest are key players in the development of a CRMP. They help with data collection and establishing baseline conditions, identifying issues and opportunities to be addressed in the planning process and, increasingly, in monitoring and implementation of aspects of the CRMP. Sections 10(e) and 11(b)(1) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act anticipate the participation of federal, state or local governments, landowners, private organizations and/or individuals in planning, protecting and administering wild and scenic rivers.

Section 16(b) of the Act defines free-flowing as “existing or flowing in a natural condition without impoundment, diversion, straightening, rip-rapping, or other modification of the waterway. The existence, however, of low dams, diversion works and other minor structures at the time any river is proposed for inclusion in the national wild and scenic rivers system shall not automatically bar its consideration for such inclusion: Provided, that this shall not be construed to authorize, intend, or encourage future construction of such structures in components of the national wild and...

These facilities will be provided if they are consistent with the management plan for each river and if funds are available.