What We Do

The National Park Service (NPS) is one of four federal land-managing agencies with WSR management responsibilities. The NPS works with these federal agencies, as well as state and local governments, landowners, and non-profit organizations. The NPS works in a variety of ways to protect and enhance National Wild and Scenic Rivers as follows:

Wild and Scenic Rivers Within National Parks

The NPS is responsible for the full range of responsibilities to protect and enhance rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as well as responsibilities for overall park management.

Congressionally Authorized Study Rivers

The NPS works with state and local governments and other stakeholders to determine whether a candidate river is eligible and suitable for designation. During the study and for three years after the study report is submitted to Congress, NPS reviews federally assisted water resources development projects to ensure protection of river values until a decision regarding designation can be made.

Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers

River management is accomplished in a collaborative partnership between NPS and state, local and/or non-governmental entities, as specified in the designation legislation and the comprehensive river management plan. To date, locally based river management councils or committees have been formed on each partnership river specifically for this purpose. Generally, no federal land is acquired along Partnership WSRs for the purposes of river protection.

State Administered Wild and Scenic Rivers

The state/local administering agency is responsible for protecting and enhancing river values. NPS responsibilities are limited to the review of federally assisted water resources projects to ensure that river values are protected.

National Guidance and Support

The NPS Wild and Scenic River (WSR) Program works to reduce the risks of WSR resource degradation and adverse litigation outcomes. Our efforts improve awareness of WSR study and management responsibilities throughout the NPS, helping to ensure the agency will continue to protect and enhance the rivers placed under its care. The following highlights the Program's work:

  • Resource Management Technical Assistance/Consultation is project specific advice that can help ensure that WSR requirements are met in a transparent and consistent manner, resource values are protected and enhanced, and litigation risk is reduced.

  • Training covers a wide spectrum from workshops and webinars, fact sheets/guidance, and materials to support development of outreach like a Junior River Ranger Program. Training is often accomplished through multi-agency efforts via the Interagency Wild and Scenic Rivers Coordinating Council (IWSRCC) and Rivers Training Center.

  • Policy Guidance and Legislative Reviews includes participation in administration initiatives, IWSRCC, and NPS activities to create policy and materials that support consistent management for the National WSR System and provide the basis for training and technical assistance.

  • Planning Products help guide WSR-related resource management. The WSR Act has specific planning requirements. The Program can work with river managers to develop planning products and more clearly describe river values, making it easier to ensure these values are protected and enhanced, and to evaluate whether proposed federal water resources projects should proceed.

  • Outreach and Communications includes both the development of communication tools and improving communications within NPS and with national and river specific stakeholders and partners (e.g., Federal agencies that assist with water resource projects on WSRs; state river administrators; and state, local, non-profit, and landowner stakeholders).

  • Program Development and Financial Support includes activities to create a community of practice to protect and share resources and expertise for WSR management. The Program works to ensure eligibility and special consideration for WSRs for NPS/DOI and external funding sources.

Last updated: April 13, 2021