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Partnership Wild and Scenic River (PWSR)Toolkit Introduction

For 50 years the Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) program has been protecting our waters through the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

"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." (Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968)

Current Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers   

Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers.  Though all are currently in the Eastern United States, any river in the 
country may be considered for
Wild and Scenic designation under the Partnership approach to designation.

Yet less than ¼ of 1% of our nation’s rivers are protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  Many initial rivers in the system were under federal ownership and management.  As you can imagine, managing rivers with one or two landowners (typically the U.S. government and perhaps some state or local ownership) would be easier to manage than our current patchwork ownership of lands.  This led, for some, the notion that Wild and Scenic River status was only for pristine, preserved western rivers with national ownership.  Oregon has the most rivers designated (47), including the spectacular Klamath River.  Alaska has the most miles designated (3,210), including such rivers of the imagination as the Yukon.  Idaho has some of our most celebrated wild rivers—the Salmon, Snake, and Selway, among others.  These rivers flow primarily through federally-owned lands and management is relatively straightforward.

 John Little Canoeing the Missisquoi River, VT.  Photo by Ken Secor

Out of a desire to also protect a broader range of rivers in private ownership with a more community-based approach, Congress amended the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, first in the late 1970s and again later, to limit federal land acquisition and mandate cooperative federal, state, and local planning conservation efforts.  A great history of this may be found here.  These changes allowed the first Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers (PWSRs) to be designated.  Partnership Rivers are managed by locally-driven, collaborative planning between local, state and regional stakeholders and the National Park Service (NPS). This and management approach to river conservation is an effective alternative to direct federal management and administration that provides nationally-designated river protection anchored by federal protection for the water course itself and supported by federal funding.  The PWSR program has published a report on the first 20 years of success of this management model.  The Great Egg in New Jersey (129 Miles Designated in 1992) was the first PWSR designated, and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017.  This PWSR was designated for its outstanding resources which included threatened and endangered species; resting, breeding and feeding areas for water fowl; rich history; recreation and scenic vistas.  

 Great Egg, NJ Tuckahoe Osprey 6-27-08 photo by Fred Akers

Any federal system can be complex to navigate.  This is a Toolkit designed to provide resources for anyone interested in Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers at any stage of discovery.  Will you use it as a reference guide for the Wild and Scenic designation; a how-to guide for understanding and completing a Study, or a cookbook for post-designation success?  The path your choose is up to you!

Choose 1 - Explore if you are new to the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers system. 

Here you will find an overview of the program, links to FAQs and information on how to find out if you river may be eligible or how to begin a study.  There will be contact information for groups where you can learn more, and examples of legislation that has designated rivers.  Start exploring

Choose 2 - Study if you would like more information about the Study Process of a Partnership Wild and Scenic River. 

Here you will find an overview of the study, sample timelines, links to management plans and Congressional reports, ideas for navigating local communication, and more.  Continue your Study

Choose 3 - Designate if you’d like to know more about the implementation of designation of a Partnership Wild and Scenic River. 

Here you will find help with forming a post-designation committee, innovative approaches to management, water quality success stories, monitoring initiatives, and more.  Work through designation

This is a dynamic toolkit - our goal is to update, evolve and improve over time.  Please provide us with your feedback on the toolkit.  Send us your ideas, success stories, examples, photos, events and more!

Throughout this Toolkit you may see the following icons that tie the online toolkit to a series of accompaniments including PowerPoints and handouts.  The hammer icon Toolkit Reference within a PowerPoint accompaniment refers to a Toolkit Reference in a PowerPoint accompaniment.  The light bulb icon Key Point within the PWSR Toolkit illustrates a key point within this Toolkit.  Many thanks to Helen Hope for her work on the accompanying materials for this Toolkit.

This is in initial stages and a work in progress, and I'd love your feedback and ideas.  Keep checking back as the full Toolkit comes online and includes resources for all stages of action with Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation and river management.  Email shana.stewart[at]vtwsr[dot]org for more information.