Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271-1287)
In the 1960s, in response to the fact that our rivers were being dammed, dredged, diked, diverted and degraded at an alarming rate, Congress created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In October of 1968, the newly enacted Wild and Scenic Rivers Act pronounced:
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers System now protects many of the rivers of our history and our literature. John Muir's Tuolumne River and his famous, losing battle to stop the flooding of Hetch Hetchy Valley; the Delaware River of the American Revolution; Zane Grey's famous flyfishing river, the North Umpqua; the Missouri of Lewis and Clark's journeys.
Designation as a wild and scenic river is not designation as a national park. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act does not generally lock up a river like a wilderness designation. The idea is not to halt development and 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. Development not damaging to the outstanding resources of a designated river, or curtailing its free flow, are usually allowed. The term "living landscape" has been frequently applied to wild and scenic rivers.
Although many of the wild and scenic rivers flow through the wildernesses of Alaska and the Northwest, those further east include portions of Michigan's AuSable and Pere Marquette rivers, as well Bear Creek, Black, Carp, Indian, Manistee, Ontonagon, Paint, Presque Isle, Sturgeon (Hiawatha National Forest), Sturgeon (Ottawa National Forest), Tahquamenon (East Branch), and Whitefish.
Agencies that manage rivers covered by this Act include some state agencies, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.
(Always refer to the most current version of the law, either by checking the compiled laws, or referring to the U.S.Code Service site above.)