Recognizing that many of Michigan's most outstanding stream systems were in danger from conflicting uses and pressures, the Michigan Legislature enacted the Natural Rivers Act (MCL 324.30501 - 30515) , now Part 305, of NREPA (P.A. 451 of 1994), authorizing a system of designated and protected natural rivers. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the responsibility for guiding the protection of designated rivers in a statewide natural rivers system. The DNR prepares comprehensive, watershed-based plans with assistance of local planning committees, comprised of local officials, citizen groups and property owners. Each plan contains values and existing uses and outlines methods for protecting and enhancing those natural resources. Plans are implemented through a variety of mechanisms, including special riverfront zoning and by requirements for state land and program management, as well as encouraging complementary actions for local government, industry and private landowners throughout the watershed.
Natural Rivers Progarm:
This program establishes and manages a system of outstanding designated rivers to preserve, protect, and enhance the public values associated with those rivers for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Its purpose is to develop a system of designated natural rivers across Michigan, with appropriate State and local controls on use and development of the lands associated with those rivers, and develop public awareness of the reasons for and methods of achieving adequate protection of Michigan's river resources.
Michigan currently has fourteen designated Natural River systems, encompassing 1,698 miles of streams. Some seventy local communities have adopted Natural River zoning ordinances. The remaining segments are protected by state zoning, administered by Natural River staff. Three broad classes of rivers are recognized which related to the general setting of each river. Since no two are alike, and they vary from one end to the other, the criteria for each class are flexible and are aimed at guiding use and devilment which will maintain a certain "feeling" and environment:
Wilderness: a free flowing river, with essentially primitive, undeveloped adjacent lands.
Wild-Scenic: a river with wild, forested borders; near development; and moderately accessible.
Country-Scenic: a river in an agricultural setting with pastoral border, some homes, and readily accessible.