Wild and Scenic Rivers

Flow chart showing the process of how a wild and scenic river are chosen.


Wild and Scenic River Logo     The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 establishes a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System for the protection of selected national rivers and their immediate environments.  The rivers must possess outstandingly remarkable values – to include scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values - which are to be preserved in free-flowing condition.

     There are more than 200 rivers in 40 states and Puerto Rico in the National System, representing more than 12,700 miles of rivers and streams.  The Forest Service helps manage almost 5,000 of these river miles.

     Just because certain rivers have a Wild and Scenic River designation, Wild and Scenic Rivers are still open for public enjoyment!  Many visitors enjoy these rivers for the recreational opportunities the rivers provide - like fishing, boating, rafting, or enjoying the scenic beauty.  The Forest Service works with the public to manage the rivers to provide both public enjoyment, and to prohibit abuse and negative impacts to their environments.

     In 2005 and 2008 respectively, the Ashley National Forest conducted a Wild and Scenic Rivers Eligibility and Suitability Study.  During this study, the Ashley determined that two rivers are suitable for a Wild and Scenic River designation: the Green River, below the Flaming Gorge Dam - and the Uinta River, within the High Uintas Wilderness.

     The Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule requires a comprehensive inventory of rivers, and their evaluation for eligibility, during a Forest Plan Revision.  This newest study is more of a mandated follow-on to the previous study than a brand new study, and is required by the 2012 Planning Rule (mentioned above).  The rivers that were analyzed during the previous eligibility study will not be re-analyzed during the Forest Plan Revision.  However, if changing circumstances exist, this may necessitate a new eligibility review for certain rivers in limited circumstances.  In addition, the Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule requires a slightly finer scale of analysis than was completed during the previous eligibility study; as such, some additional river segments will require further eligibility evaluation.  Approximately 41 additional river segments have been identified that will require more study.  These are primarily rivers or streams (tributary) flowing into larger river segments that were previously analyzed in the 2005 study.  Click here to view the List of Rivers and Map of Rivers to be analyzed in the eligibility review.View of Green River in canyon below Flaming Gorge Dam

     Wild and Scenic Rivers can be designated by Congress, or by the Secretary of the Interior - at a State Governor’s request.  Congressionally designated Wild and Scenic rivers are managed by the Forest Service or the Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service).  State agencies usually manage Wild and Scenic Rivers designated by the Secretary, sometimes along with Local governments.  However, since rivers do not follow neat property lines, management is often shared by more than one government agency, Tribal nations, private landowners and river users.

For more information about WSR analysis, click on the following links:

Key Contacts

Cathleen Neelan, Forest Plan Revision Team Leader
Lars Christensen, Collaboration Specialist