Wild and Scenic Rivers Suitability Study for National Forest Lands in Utah

Overview of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

Photo of the Stillwater Fork River running through a lush green meadow on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National ForestThe 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, which possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values which are to be preserved in free-flowing condition.

The purpose of the Act is to institute a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System by designating the initial components of that system and by prescribing the methods and standards applicable to adding components to the system. Visit the National Park Service River Project page for additional information. 

Congress established this Act to protect rivers and their immediate environments for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations; to preserve selected rivers in their free-flowing condition; and to protect water quality and fulfill other vital national conservation purposes. However, designation as a wild and scenic river does not ‘lock it up.’ The idea behind the National System is not to halt use of a river; instead, the goal is to preserve the character of a river. Uses compatible with the management goals of a particular river are allowed; change is expected to happen. However, development must ensure the river's free flow and protect its "outstandingly remarkable resources." The intent of Congress was to create a national system of protected rivers that co-existed with use and appropriate development.

What Are the Effects of Wild and Scenic Rivers Designation?

  • No new dams can be constructed on the river.
  • Protects our river heritage and some of our nation's premiere rivers.
  • Federally-assisted water resource development projects are allowed on the river only if they would have no direct or adverse effects on free flow, water quality, and the outstandingly remarkable values for which the river was designated.
  • No affect on the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the States with respect to fish and wildlife. Hunting and fishing shall be permitted on lands and waters administered as parts of the system under applicable State and Federal laws and regulations unless, in the case of hunting, those lands or waters are within a national park or monument.
  • Designation neither prohibits development nor gives the federal government control over private property.
  • Mining and mineral leasing laws on the federal land are affected:
    • Valid existing rights are not rescinded
    • Ongoing mining and mineral leasing is subject to regulations.

Suitability Factors

Factors that were considered in the suitability evaluation and determination process for each river segment include, but are not limited to:

  1. Landownership and land uses.
  2. Existing and potential water resources development.
  3. Existing and potential transportation, facilities, and other developments.
  4. Existing and potential mineral and energy resource activities.
  5. Existing grazing activities.
  6. Existing and potential recreation activities.
  7. Other existing and potential resource activities (e.g.: farming activities, current or potential vegetation management projects, recreation facilities or trail projects).
  8. Existing or potential special designations.
  9. Socio-economic environment.
  10. Current administration and funding needs if designated.
  11. The extent to which the State or its political subdivisions might participate in the shared preservation and administration of the river, including costs.
  12. The state/local government's ability to manage and protect the outstandingly remarkable values on non-federal lands.
  13. Support or opposition to designation.
  14. The consistency of designation with other agency plans, programs or policies and in meeting regional objectives.
  15. Contribution to river system or basin integrity.
  16. Demonstrated or potential commitment for public volunteers, partnerships, and/or stewardship commitments for management and/or funding of the river segment.
  17. Other significant attributes (biological, wildlife, etc.).