October 2008 header
Welcome to the monthly newsletter that brings you creative solutions for connecting parks, communities, young people, and nature.
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Why it Matters?

How should America balance development with protecting our most important, spectacular rivers? Congress settled this question 40 years ago by passing the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  The Act declared that certain rivers "shall be preserved in free-flowing condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."  On October 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Act into law, and in so doing, protected several rivers named in the Act.
However, the Act also created methods by which the American people could go on to name other rivers to be legally protected as well. In the 40 year life of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, 166 rivers have come to form the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  These rivers have special attributes - scenic vistas, important fish and wildlife habitats, outstanding recreational opportunities, or geologic, historic, or cultural significance - that merit their preservation in free-flowing condition. 
Over 3,400 other rivers are potentially eligible for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Act spells out how advocates can seek additional designations.  A nonprofit organization, American Rivers, has launched a campaign to designate 40 new rivers in recognition of the Act's 40th anniversary, and community advocates can also organize efforts to have their local rivers recognized. Securing Wild and Scenic status for our last, best rivers is a powerful way to protect them. 
Lamprey River
Lamprey River, New Hampshire

Generation Next: Partnership Wild & Scenic Rivers

Many Wild & Scenic Rivers are located on federally owned lands-for instance, rivers that flow through national parks. But there is a new model emerging for rivers that travel along privately-owned land: Partnership Wild & Scenic Rivers. This collaborative approach is important, says NPS staffer  Joan Harn, because "We can't protect these rivers on our own-not even the ones that are exclusively in parks-because the watershed often extends well beyond our boundaries." It takes community effort and awareness to safeguard these resources.

The Lamprey River in coastal New Hampshire, is a good example of the Partnership Wild & Scenic model. Celebrating 12 years of stewardship since federal designation, the Lamprey River Advisory Committee has helped conserve more than 1800 acres in the 26-mile river corridor, which support wildlife, protect clean, and maintain scenic and rural character. In 2008, the Committee published a river tour brochure about the river's special places.  With its sister organization, the Lamprey River Watershed Association, the Committee embarked on an invasive species project and became a leader in eradicating Japanese knotweed.  "2008 was also a banner year for land conservation with conservation easements placed on 5 parcels totaling 420 acres and almost a mile of riverfront," says Julie Isbill, NPS liaison to the Committee.

The first step in becoming a Partnership Wild & Scenic River is conducting a study, in partnership with the National Park Service, to determine what is special about your river. A bill must be passed authorizing the National Park Service to conduct a study. The process takes 2-3 years and is funded by the federal government (there is no local match required, except time). Initiating a study evolves through grassroots organizing in the river communities, and usually culminates in a written request for a study from local officials to your members of Congress. After the study is completed, the study committee and communities will make a determination about seeking Partnership Wild & Scenic River designation.

To learn more about the history of Wild & Scenic Rivers, check out the National Parks Conservation Association's recent articleFor river-related funding or grants, search our NPS grants database. For research on the economic benefits of river protection, see our NPS annotated bibliography.
Boy Scouts at New River
Scouts joining a Wild & Scenic Rivers celebration at New River, West Virginia

A Beautiful Day to Celebrate Rivers
It is worth noting that the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act provides authorities for the NPS to help local communities with a range of technical assistance on rivers through the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Every month, people helped by NPS accomplish important goals for protecting rivers; here is a recent success in Iowa.

Conservation Success: North Raccoon River Water Trail, Iowa
On September 29th, over 100 supporters and paddlers came together to celebrate the completion of the 160-mile North Raccoon River Water Trail in central Iowa.  River supporters, the Iowa DNR, and the Raccoon River Watershed Association were joined by representatives of Iowa's Congressional delegation for a day of food, music, and paddling.  RTCA staffer David Thomson helped Greene County Conservation Board to design a water trail guide and map which features local business contact information, land based trails in the area, town festivals along the river, and specific paddling routes for beginners.  The project's success was shared by Central Iowa Paddlers, Iowa Whitewater Coalition, Dallas County Conservation Board, and many other partners.  For more information, please contact David Thomson.
Let's Work Together

Could your project benefit from 1-2 years' staff time from a National Park Service specialist?

If you're working on restoring a river, building a community trail, or making an urban park flourish, we'd love to talk with you about ways we could work together. Please call or email your regional representative today.

Klamath River, California
Klamath River, California (image: Tim Palmer)

NPS Conservation and Recreation Links

Challenge Cost Share Program | Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers | Federal Lands to Parks

Hydropower Relicensing Program | National Trails System |  Urban Park and Recreation Recovery

Land and Water Conservation Fund | Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program

The Update informs Department of the Interior staff, organizational partners, and friends about the program successes and activities of the National Park Service Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Programs. For more details, please contact the staff person involved with each project.

This e-newsletter may be copied or redirected. Our staff would be pleased to assist your editor in adapting each story for your publication; for more information, please call (202) 354-6918 or e-mail sally_grate@nps.gov.
Images courtesy National Park Service.