Wild and Scenic Rivers

Water streaming through rocks to form whitewater rapids.

Impressive rapids in North Fork Kern River along the River Trail, Sequoia National Forest. Photo by SoCalHiker at summitpost.org

What's new?

We are sharing an update on our wild and scenic rivers process. See "December 2015 Materials" below. If you have questions, concerns or feedback about our Wild and Scenic River Evaluation process or initial findings listed below please contact Christina Boston at 707-562-8837 or submit your input via Web-form at: http://tinyurl.com/earlyadoptersfpr. Feedback is most useful if received by February 1, 2016.

December 2015 Materials for Public Review

The Forest Service is sharing our Wild and Scenic Rivers inventory, eligibility and classification findings for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. The inventory, evaluation, and classification process and findings have been complied into one draft Wild and Scenic River Evaluation document and will be published as an appendix in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) we are developing for the forest plan revisions. The draft of this document is provided here for your review and feedback is welcome. This document will be also available for public review during the draft EIS comment period. Refinements may be made before the DEIS is released and between the draft and final EIS.

Additionally, we are sharing two sets of maps and a table for each forest. The first map shows the comprehensive inventory of rivers that were identified for evaluation in step one in the WSR process. The second map shows the results of step two, our eligibility evaluation, and of step three, classification. The table summarizes the results of the WSR evaluations, including classification and identified outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs) for those rivers and stream segments that were found, or reaffirmed, to be eligible.

Overview documents

Inyo National Forest

Sequoia National Forest

Sierra National Forest

Background

As part of revising the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forest management plans, the Forest Service is considering Wild and Scenic Rivers. In December 2015, we released an update on our progress.

In 1968, Congress created the National Wild and Science Rivers (WSR) System to preserve free-flowing rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values. Designations may be for a river segment or an entire river and may include tributaries. The Act protects the special character of rivers while recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. Wild and scenic river designations are made legislatively by Congress, or though Section 2(a)ii of the Act. Federal designation of state-designated wild and scenic rivers may occur via a state petition to the Secretary of the Interior. Designations may be for a river segment or an entire river and may include tributaries. Congressionally designated rivers are managed as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. For federally administered rivers, the designated boundaries generally average one-quarter mile on either bank.

The 2012 Planning Rule requires that during forest plan revision or development the Forest Service must develop a comprehensive inventory of rivers not already designated or recommended and determine if they are eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. For those rivers determined to meet eligibility requirements a preliminary classification is assigned. The 2012 Planning Rule also requires us to manage eligible and suitable rivers to protect their free flow, water quality and outstandingly remarkable values.

The Wild and Scenic River Study Process

There are four steps in the WSR study process, three are required during forest plan revisions: develop a systematic and comprehensive inventory of rivers to consider for their potential eligibility, determine stream eligibility for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (must be free-flowing and have an outstanding remarkable value such as scenic, recreational, geologic, fish, wildlife, historic, cultural or other feature), and classify the rivers as "wild," "scenic," or "recreational" based on the existing level of access and development The fourth step, suitability, may happen during plan revision but is not required. During suitability we assess the eligible rivers' potential for inclusion in the WSR System. This study evaluates the potential physical, biological, economic, and social effects of adding the river to the National System. A suitability study provides the basis for determining which rivers to recommend to Congress as potential additions to the National System.

What has the Forest Service completed?

Inventory: We have completed an inventory of rivers to consider as eligible for WSR designation. The inventory includes all rivers that are named on U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Agriculture 7.5 minute quadrangle maps.

  • We reviewed other sources, including public and tribal comments that identified rivers with potential WSR eligibility to ensure that all rivers of interest were included in our inventory.
  • Previous WSR studies were also assessed for completeness. We used this information to identify which portions of the current inventory were previously assessed rivers and which were not. Of those previously assessed, we determined which rivers required further assessment based on either new information or changed conditions.

These maps show the comprehensive inventory of rivers that were identified for evaluation in step one in the WSR process.

Eligibility and Classification: Each river listed in the inventory has been evaluated for WSR eligibility and, if found eligible has been assigned a preliminary classification.

  • For previously studied rivers, we determined if there was new information or changed conditions that potentially affected the previous findings for eligibility and preliminary classification. If so, the eligibility and classification were updated.
  • For rivers not previously evaluated, we determined if they are free-flowing and have at least one river-related value (i.e. scenery, recreation, geology, fish and wildlife populations and habitat, prehistory, history, botany, paleontological, or hydrology), that may be of regional or national significance. If neither free-flow nor river-related values were found, then the river was determined to be ineligible.
  • If free flow and at least one potential river-related value were identified, then we systematically evaluated the river using criteria for "outstandingly remarkable values" (ORVs) and a region of comparison to determine what, if any, ORVs it has. Rivers that are free-flowing and have at least one ORV were found to be eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. All eligible rivers were assigned a preliminary classification as "wild," "scenic," or "recreational" based on the existing level of development of the shoreline, watercourse and access at the time of river is found eligible.

These maps shows the results of step two, our eligibility evaluation, and of step three, classification. The table summarizes the results of the WSR evaluations, including classification and identified outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs) for those rivers and stream segments that were found, or reaffirmed, to be eligible.

What is underway?

The inventory, evaluation, and classification process and findings have been complied into one draft Wild and Scenic River Evaluation document and will be published as an appendix in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) we are developing for the forest plan revisions. This document will be also available for public review during the draft EIS comment period. Refinements may be made before the DEIS is released and between the draft and final EIS.

Additionally, we are sharing two sets of maps and a table for each forest (see section above "What has the Forest Service completed)". The first map shows the comprehensive inventory of rivers that were identified for evaluation in step one in the WSR process. The second map shows the results of step two, our eligibility evaluation, and of step three, classification . The table summarizes the results of the WSR evaluations, including classification and identified outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs) for those rivers and stream segments that were found, or reaffirmed, to be eligible.

What is next?

Publication: The inventory, evaluation, and classification process will be published as an appendix in the draft Environmental Impact Statement being developed for the three forests.

Suitability: This analysis and decision-making step will not be completed as part of the current forest plan revision process but will be completed in a future separate NEPA process.