Land of the free-flowing rivers: administration of the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act on designated rivers in Oregon and Washington State
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On October 2, 1968, United States legislators passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA), establishing a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System to protect free-flowing rivers with outstandingly remarkable values. Once designated, the river section is managed by one of four federal agencies, in cooperation with state and local government. This study examined administration of WSRA on 62 designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Oregon and Washington State, under the administration of the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS). Research examined characteristics of all designated rivers in the two states and assessed the content of a representative subset of 28 river management plans. Eleven federal employees who administer WSRA on four rivers were interviewed to gain an understanding of their experiences and perspectives on WSRA. Designated river segments cover a range of river lengths, designation years, and classifications. Most rivers have management plans, but a majority of the plans are over 20 years old. Plans address a high percentage of legally required elements, and over 80% of plans discuss goals and objectives, directives for cooperation, and monitoring. Fewer have implementation timelines, detailed boundaries, baseline river condition data, or estimations of budget. Only two have been updated since original publication. Plans developed jointly by the USFS and BLM consistently addressed the highest percentage of examined elements. All of the federal agency staff members were aware of the plan, but levels of plan utilization varied widely. Interviewees considered the sections on purpose of designation and standards and guidelines to be the most useful. Main challenges to implementing WSRA include funding for monitoring and outreach, staff turnover, and adapting to changing technologies and conditions. Even with these challenges to administering WSRA, federal employees felt positive about river designation overall.
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