Eligibility

Blue sky reflecting on the Sheepscot River

The Sheepscot River - Tim Sackton, Wikimedia

In order to be listed on the Nationwide Rivers Inventory (NRI), a river must be free-flowing and possess one or more Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs). The Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) Act defines free-flowing; as existing or flowing in natural condition without impoundment, diversion, straightening, rip-rapping, or other modification of the waterway. ORVs are defined by the WSR Act as the general categories of characteristics that make a river worthy of special protection and national recognition . The determination that a river area contains ORVs is a professional judgment on the part of the interdisciplinary study team, based on objective, scientific analysis. Input from organizations and individuals familiar with specific river resources should be sought and documented as part of the process.

In order to be considered outstandingly remarkable, a river-related value must be a unique, rare, or exemplary when compared with similar values of other rivers at a regional or national scale. Only one such value is needed for eligibility.

The area, region or scale of comparison is not fixed, and should be defined as that which serves as a basis for meaningful comparative analysis; it may vary depending on the value being considered. Typically, a "region" is defined on the scale of an administrative unit, a portion of a state, or an appropriately scaled physiographic or hydrologic unit.

While the spectrum of resources that may be considered is broad, all values should be directly river-related. That is, they should:

  • Be located in the river or on its immediate shorelands (generally within 1/4 mile on either side of the river);

  • Contribute substantially to the functioning of the river ecosystem; and/or

  • Owe their location or existence to the presence of the river.

Outstandingly Remarkable Values
The following eligibility criteria are offered to foster greater consistency within the federal river-administering agencies. They are intended to set minimum thresholds to establish ORVs and are illustrative but not all-inclusive. If utilized in an agency's planning process, these criteria may be modified to make them more meaningful in the area of comparison, and additional criteria may be included.

  • Scenic:
    These rivers have elements such as landform, vegetation, water, color and related factors that result in landscapes or attractions that are rare, unique, or exemplary. When analyzing scenic values, seasonality of flow variations, ice, and snow cover, and vegetation can also be considered, along with the impact of human development on the landscape. Scenery and visual attractions may be highly diverse over different parts of the river or river segment.

  • Recreational:
    High quality recreational opportunities attract, or have the potential to attract, visitors from throughout or beyond the region; or the recreational opportunities are unique, rare, or exemplary within the region. Additionally rivers may provide highly valued settings and opportunities for healthy, active outdoor activities for people close to where they live. Others may uniquely connect communities, support or diversify local economies and provide needed access to open space and the outdoors. River-related recreation can include a wide-range of settings from highly social to opportunities for solitude. Activities may include, but are not limited to, sightseeing, wildlife observation, camping, photography, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, and exceptional interpretive opportunities. The river may provide, or have the potential to provide, settings for national or regional usage or competitive events.

  • Geologic:
    The geologic features along the river corridor may be in an unusually active stage of development, represent a textbook example of geologic processes, or represent a unique or rare combination of geologic features (erosional, cave formation, volcanic, glacial, or other geologic structures).

  • Fish:

    Populations: The river is nationally or regionally an important producer of resident and/or migratory fish species. Of particular significance are a diversity of fish species or the presence of wild stocks and/or federal or state listed (or candidate) threatened, endangered or species of conservation concern.

    Habitat: The river provides uniquely diverse or exceptionally high quality habitat for fish species indigenous to the region of comparison. Of particular significance is habitat for wild stocks and/or federal or state listed (or candidate) threatened, endangered or species of conservation concern.

  • Wildlife:

    Populations: The river, or area within the river corridor, contains nationally or regionally important populations of indigenous wildlife species. Of particular significance are species diversity, species considered to be unique, and/or populations of federal or state listed (or candidate) threatened or endangered or species of conservation concern.

    Habitat: The river, or area within the river corridor, provides uniquely diverse or exceptionally high quality habitat for wildlife of national or regional significance, and/or may provide unique habitat for federal or state listed (or candidate) threatened, endangered, or species of conservation concern. The river or riparian area may provide critical habitat connectivity for migratory species or for wildlife that utilizes a variety of habitat types during different life stages.

  • Cultural:
    The river corridor contains evidence of significant river-related occupation and use (e.g. pre-contact sites, ceremonial area, fishing area, sacred religious sites), by Native Americans in the past or at present. Site integrity may enhance education and interpretation significance (e.g. sites that are unmodified and retain their original character; important sites or river crossings; features that are in excellent condition). Sites or features currently listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, particularly in abundance such as Archeological Districts and Cultural Landscapes, and National Historic Landmarks, contribute to the value. Not all listed/eligible resources equate to an ORV, but will still be afforded protections under cultural and historic resource protection laws.

  • Historic:
    Sites or features are associated with historically significant river-related events, activity (e.g. major railroad sites, early settlement), or are associated with exceptional or important people (e.g. John Wesley Powell, Brigham Young). A historic site or feature, in most cases, is at least 50 years old. Site integrity may enhance education and interpretation significance. The presence of exceptional examples of river-related structure architecture from a significant period of history, sites that are unmodified and retain their original character, or features that are exceptional examples within the region are also relevant considerations. Sites or features that are currently listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, particularly in abundance such as Historic Districts and designated as National Historic Landmarks contribute to the value. Not all listed/eligible resources equate to an ORV, but will still be afforded protections under cultural and historic resource protection laws.

  • Other Similar Value:
    Other similar outstandingly remarkable values can include, but are not limited to, botany, hydrology, ecology, paleontology, and science.

Potential Classifications
Rivers are preliminarily classified as wild, scenic, or recreational. These classifications relate to the degree of development and access along the river on the date of designation, not its proposed uses. Each potentially designated river in the national system is to be managed consistent with its classification in a way that protects and enhances the values and characteristics that prompted its designation.

According to section 2(b) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the three classifications are defined as follows:

• “Wild” river areas 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” river areas are "free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads."

• “Recreational” river areas are "readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some shoreline development, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past."

Last updated: December 20, 2016

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