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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System: A Brief Overview

Sandra L. Johnson
Information Research Specialist

Laura B. Comay
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-542, 16 U.S.C. §§1271 et seq.) created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The act established a policy of preserving designated free-flowing rivers for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations and to complement the then-current national policy of constructing dams and other structures along many rivers.

River units designated as part of the system are classified and administered as wild, scenic, or recreational rivers, based on the condition of the river, the amount of development in the river or on the shorelines, and the degree of accessibility by road or trail at the time of designation. Typically, rivers are added to the system by an act of Congress, but they may also be added by state nomination with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. Congress initially designated 789 miles of eight rivers as part of the system. Today there are 203 river units with 12,602.1 miles in 39 states and Puerto Rico, administered by federal agencies—typically the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, or the Fish and Wildlife Service— or by state, local, or tribal governments.

This report gives a brief overview of the designation, management, and funding of rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. It also discusses recent legislation to designate, study, extend, or make other changes to specific components of the system.

Date of Report: March 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: R42614
Price: $29.95

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