There are more appropriate and cost-effective ways to ensure resource conservation along wild and scenic rivers than using the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act’s condemnation authority. (Refer to Protecting Resource Values on Non-federal Lands (1996).)
Agencies may acquire properties using appropriated funds under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act or other authorities. Owners are contacted in order to see if an exchange or voluntary purchase can be negotiated.
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...
Upon congressional authorization for a study (Section 5(a)) or by federal agency initiative (Section 5(d)(1)).
Yes. The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act directs other federal agencies to protect river values. It explicitly recognizes the regulatory roles of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency in protecting wild and scenic rivers, and directs other federal departments and agencies that permit or assist in the construction of water resources projects to do likewise. The role of such federal agencies in water resources project construction may be through regulation, direct funding, or indirectly funding by providing federal assistance to others.
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.
No. The protection afforded by Section 7(b) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act does not apply to Section 5(d)(1) study rivers. However, the managing agency should, within its authorities, protect the values which make the river eligible or suitable (free-flowing condition, water quality and outstandingly remarkable values).
Review of hydroelectric and federally water resources projects under Section 7 of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act is complex. Please refer to Wild & Scenic Rivers Act: Section 7 (2004), a technical report of the Interagency Wild and Scenic Rivers...
No. The Interagency Wild & Scenic River Guidelines state, “There are no specific requirements concerning the length or the flow of an eligible river segment. A river segment is of sufficient length if, when managed as a wild, scenic or recreational river area, the outstandingly remarkable values are protected. Flows are sufficient if they sustain or complement the outstandingly remarkable values for which the river was designated.
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.
Yes. The federal agency should consider a wide variety of internal and external sources from which to identify potentially eligible rivers. These sources may include: American Rivers’ “Outstanding Rivers List,” statewide river inventories/assessments, published guidebooks, etc. The important point is to develop and apply standardized criteria through a documented evaluation process for potential wild and scenic rivers.
Once such a river segment has been found to be ineligible, the agency will describe the basis for this finding in the study report and follow its internal procedures to transmit the report to the Congress in accordance with Section 7(b) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
Administering agencies do not have any authority to control public use of private lands. Granting of access remains the owner’s responsibility and trespass is handled by local law enforcement authorities. Federal river-administering agencies do, however, work closely with landowners to minimize problems through brochures and maps, signs, etc., and many landowners feel they are better off with the agency taking some responsibility.
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...
No. Lands owned by a state may be acquired only by donation or exchange per Section 6(a)(1) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
Yes, a CRMP is developed in compliance with the NEPA. The purpose and need for the proposed action is to protect and enhance the values for which the river was designated (free-flowing condition, water quality, and outstandingly remarkable values), within its classification(s). The proposed action establishes appropriate goals, objectives, and/or desired conditions to meet those purposes. Alternative courses of actions are developed and analyzed relative to achieving overall goals and desired conditions within the wild and scenic river corridor. A “no action” alternative, representing the...
Yes. The ability of the owner to buy, sell, donate, or leave property to heirs is unaffected by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Landowners who sell should inform the new owner of any easement transferred with the title.
No. Under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the federal government has no authority to regulate or zone private lands. Land use controls on private lands are solely a matter of state and local zoning. Although the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act includes provisions encouraging the protection of river values through state and local governmental land use planning, there are no binding provisions on local governments. In the absence of state or local river protection provisions, the federal government may seek to protect values by providing technical assistance, entering into agreements with...
Section 13(g) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act allows the granting of easements and rights-of-way within the boundaries of designated components in accordance with applicable laws, provided that the conditions attached to the grant are consistent with the purposes of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
Any portion of a right-of-way project that includes federally assisted construction that may affect the river’s free-flowing condition—and is not automatically prohibited by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act—is subject to an evaluation by the river-administering agency under Section...
The requirement for a comprehensive river management plan (CRMP), does not apply to state-administered, federally designated rivers. Federal land managers are responsible for protecting river values in all agency planning and management actions for any portion of a 2(a)(ii) river that flows on federal lands. In some cases, the petitioning state has a requirement for a plan. The existence of a state or local plan to protect river values is one of the factors considered by the National Park Service in its review of the 2(a)(ii) nomination for the Secretary.
Yes, the federal government may seek to control use on adjacent lands under very limited circumstances. The Constitution gives the federal government certain limited powers to control uses on state-owned lands that affect adjacent federal property. These powers may be exercised through the Property Clause, which provides that, “Congress shall have the power to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or the property belonging to the United States.”
The federal government may also regulate use and/or activities occurring on the surface waters...
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.
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.
No. However, the federal land administering agency must protect wild and scenic river values on federal lands.
Section 6(a)(1) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act states:
The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture are each authorized to acquire lands and interests in land within the authorized boundaries of any component of the national wild and scenic rivers system designated in Section 3 of this act . . . but he shall not acquire fee title to an average of more than 100 acres per mile on both sides of the rivers.
The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act authorizes fee title acquisition to the equivalent of about a 400 foot wide strip of land...
The Interagency Guidelines may be revised. The Interagency Wild & Scenic Rivers Council periodically evaluates tasks to be undertaken.
Most rivers have flexible boundaries to accommodate specific features and river values. (Refer to Establishment of Wild and Scenic River Boundaries (1998).)
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.
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-...
Yes. There are four other principal agencies with authority on rivers, including wild and scenic rivers, in the United States. The EPA has authority to protect water quality; the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) has jurisdiction for water resources projects; the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has jurisdiction on inland navigable waters, vessel inspecting and licensing, safety and boating enforcement, aids to navigation, and permitting of bridges; and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authority to license the construction of hydroelectric projects.
The requirements specified for a CRMP in Section 3(d)(1) are most often developed through a separate-in-time planning process. This can result in either an amendment to the direction in the agency’s unit-wide plan o a stand-alone plan, depending on agency practices. For designated rivers that are separate NPS units, the CRMP is the General Management Plan (e.g., St. Croix National Scenic Riverway).
Yes. River-administering agencies have an affirmative duty to evaluate pre-existing uses on federal lands to determine whether such uses are protecting the values for which the wild and scenic river was designated. Grazing may continue when consistent with protecting river values. If grazing practices are determined to be inconsistent with wild and scenic river management objectives, then changes in grazing practices may be required.
Yes. Motorized access allowed prior to designation will, generally, be allowed post designation, subject to congressional intent and river management objectives. However, if motorized use adversely impacts a river’s water quality or outstandingly remarkable values, or if the use is not consistent with the river’s classification the route may be closed or regulated.
The continued legality of motorized use on land or water is best determined through the river management planning process, which considers factors such as impacts on river values, user demand for such motorized...
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.
Agency officials are required to coordinate when their responsibilities relevant to wild and scenic rivers overlap. Officials should determine the level of study to be conducted, who will lead the study, and, to the extent necessary and feasible, prepare a joint document for submission to Congress or congressional delegations.
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.
Timber management activities on non-federal lands outside the corridor are guided by state and local authorities. The river manager may provide technical assistance and/or work with state/local governments to protect river values.
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...
Yes. There is no acreage limitation for less than fee title (e.g., easements), however.
Boundaries are measured from the ordinary high water mark of the outermost stream channel. That is, boundaries will be measured from the outermost braid unless otherwise specified by Congress. This is typically considered during the suitability determination and in the development of the final river corridor boundary.
Rivers included in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System by act of Congress (under Section 3(a) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act) are administered by one of four federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and/or U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as specified in the legislation. Rivers included in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System at the request of a governor and designated by the Secretary of the Interior (under Section 2(a)(ii) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act) are administered by the respective...
Rivers in Alaska outside of national parks and Elkhorn Creek in Oregon (640 acres per river mile) exceed the 320 acre average.
Corridor boundaries are established to protect the free-flowing condition, water quality, and outstandingly remarkable values for which the river was designated. Generally, the corridor width for designated rivers cannot exceed an average of 320 acres per mile which, if applied uniformly along the entire designated segment, is one-quarter of a mile (1,320 feet) on each side of the river. Boundaries may be wider or narrower, but are not to exceed the 320 acre average per mile per Section 3(b) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act without approval by Congress. The acreage of any islands...