Wild & Scenic Rivers

Suggested Interview Questions

  1. What is the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and what does it do?

    The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act safeguards the free-flowing character of rivers by precluding them from being dammed, while allowing for the public to enjoy them. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries, and promotes public participation to develop goals for protecting streams. Rivers are designated according to three classifications: Wild – Rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America. Scenic – Rivers or sections that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads. Recreational – Rivers or sections that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.

  2. How many miles of rivers in America are protected under the act?

    Currently, the National River System protects 12,754 miles of 209 rivers in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This is less than one-quarter of one percent of the nation's rivers.

  3. How many miles of rivers are inundated behind dams?

    More than 75,000 large dams nationwide have modified at least 600,000 miles, or about 17%, of American rivers.

  4. Hydro-electric power is a form of renewable energy, but it comes with some heavy environmental costs. What are they?

    The movement of water creates energy; this energy can be harnessed into hydropower or hydroelectric power. According to the Department of Energy, all but two states use hydropower and about 74% of Washington State’s electricity comes from hydropower. While there are many methods used to create hydropower, they often involve building a dam or channelizing part of a river or stream. Dams inhibit the free downstream movement of water, and cause a section of river to run dry and triggers a buildup of sentiments or organic matter in reservoirs. They can also dramatically change the topography of an area through development of a reservoir or preventing natural meandering of a stream. These changes affect fish, plants, animals, and even humans.

  5. Does the Wild & Scenic River Act mean the government will take land along rivers or control how it is used?

    Not at all. Designation as a Wild & Scenic River does not prohibit development or give the federal government control over private property. Recreation, agricultural practices, residential development and other uses can continue. Rivers, or sections of rivers that are designated as 'Wild', 'Scenic', or 'Recreational' are protected through voluntary stewardship by landowners and river users, and through regulation and programs of federal, state, local or tribal governments. Not all land within the boundaries of designated rivers is, or will be, publicly owned, and the Act limits how much land the federal government is allowed to acquire from willing sellers. Designation does not affect existing water rights or the existing jurisdiction of states and the federal government over waters as determined by established principles of law.

  6. Why does America still need free-flowing rivers?

    Like our wilderness areas and many other public lands, free-flowing rivers embody independence and wildness. A river that determines its own trajectory is truly self-willed, a foundational element that has always defined American society. Less philosophically, free-flowing rivers create natural riparian systems that foster healthy, abundant, and diverse wildlife and are the centerpieces of rich ecological processes. Recreationally, free-flowing rivers offer unparalleled inspirational experiences from the most challenging whitewater to the most placid fishing.

  7. Not all of these rivers are located in untamed wilderness. Describe some of the more urban rivers and how people use them.

    While many Wild and Scenic Rivers offer opportunities for rugged adventures and solitude, others flow in close proximately to densely populated areas. For example, a 29-mile segment of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers run 25 miles west of Boston, Massachusetts. These Wild and Scenic Rivers offer remarkable recreation opportunities, a historic setting (the Old North Bridge, Minute Man National Historic Park, and the site of the Revolutionary War “shot heard round the world”), and important habitat for wildlife. The Rio Grande River and its tributaries run through many remote and developed locations of the southwestern United States and along the United States border with Mexico. They also run through prominent cities Albuquerque and Sante Fe in New Mexico and El Paso and Brownsville in Texas. The Rio Grande River offers unique recreational opportunities, natural values, and plays an important role in irrigation across the southwest.

  8. What do economic studies say about the benefits of Wild & Scenic Rivers?

    Economic studies on the benefits of rivers come in two flavors, rivers-specific local studies and general national studies. For example, studies on the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, Rogue Wild and Scenic River, and West Branch Farmington Wild and Scenic River spent an estimated $1.8 million in 2001 in the six-county area around the Chattooga with a total estimated economic impact of $2.6 million in 2002. At a national scale, the outdoor recreation economy became its own independently-counted sector of U.S. Gross Domestic Product in 2016 through the Outdoor REC Act, and watersports are sub-section of the greater outdoor recreation economy. The Outdoor Industry Association reports that Americans spend $140 billion each year on watersports, and the watersports industry supports more than 1.2 million jobs.

  9. What are the prospects for more rivers being designated, and what rivers are candidates?

    The National Park Service is working with community leaders to study and evaluate and, once designated, co-manage Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers. These are rivers that are managed through local community partnerships, and designations often come from grassroots activism. For example, seventy miles of the Lower Farmington River & Salmon Brook in Connecticut are in the process of pursuing designation. Other designations, such as the Hoh on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the Nashua in Massachusetts, the Gila in New Mexico and the Molalla in Oregon, are being pursued as part of the 5000 Miles of Wild (https://www.5000miles.org/) campaign through American Rivers, American Whitewater and other partners.

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