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Individual Highlight

Wild and Scenic Rivers: their contributions to aquatic species conservation and opportunities for improvement

Photo of A view of the Mameyes River, a Wild and Scenic River in the Luquillo Experimental Forest/ El Yunque National Forest, Puerto RicoA view of the Mameyes River, a Wild and Scenic River in the Luquillo Experimental Forest/ El Yunque National Forest, Puerto RicoSnapshot : Wild and Scenic Rivers are designated to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. These rivers also serve as strongholds for the conservation of aquatic biodiversity. Effective stewardship ofWild and Scenic Rivers depends on science-based, collaborative management informed by the ongoing combination of research and partnerships.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Thurow, Russ F. Heartsill Scalley, Tamara
Rothlisberger, John 
Research Location : USFS All lands
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2018
Highlight ID : 1479


In the 50 years since passage of the US Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, wild and scenic rivers (WSRs) have contributed significantly to the conservation of native aquatic biodiversity as well as to the conservation and restoration of the essential habitats associated with these largely pristine and intact river systems. The National Wild and Scenic River System is made up of the more than 20,000 km of rivers that Congress has designated to receive special protections and management provisions. Stewardship of individual rivers and river segments is assigned to Tribes, States, and various Federal agencies. The USFS is currently the leading agency for WSR stewardship, overseeing more river kilometers in the national system than any other agency. WSRs provide complex aquatic and riparian habitats, favorable hydrological conditions, and sustain natural processes necessary for long-term persistence of many aquatic species. Achieving sustainable use of freshwater resources for the benefit of present and future generations requires continued pursuit of actions that conserve and restore native species and their habitats. Various limitations to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act with respect to aquatic conservation have been identified in the years since it was enacted in 1968. Past and current USFSresearch and partnershipshave helped identify needed mitigations and actions to improve river stewardship. A comprehensive approach to sustaining WSRs includes research and monitoring, along with a combination of protected areas and multiple-use areas, restoration projects, outreach, and educational initiatives. The development of an integrated approach transcending land and water management boundaries is essential to conserve the biodiversity and functionality of all rivers.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Washington Office, Research and Development