The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to balance long-standing federal policies promoting construction of dams, levees, and other river development projects with one that would permanently preserve selected rivers, or river segments, in their free-flowing condition. To accomplish this, the act prohibits federal licensing, assistance, or construction of projects that would alter the free-flowing character of designated rivers or diminish their outstanding resource values.
1. What is the purpose of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act?
2. What are the benefits of the study?
The pre-designation Wild and Scenic study provides local communities and the state with staff assistance and financial resources in planning for the river's future, designing and implementing specific conservation actions, and conducting public outreach.
3. What protection can Wild and Scenic River designation provide that local and state regulations cannot?
State and local regulations that reflect a desire to protect important river values are not binding on federal agencies and federal actions. Currently, the only way to ensure protection of the river against federal proposals, such as new dams, is through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Wild and Scenic River status is a privilege reserved for special rivers whose adjacent communities recognize, and are committed to, the long-term protection of identified river values.
4. Are there different classifications given to rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System?
Yes, "wild," "scenic," and "recreational." The different classifications are based solely on the existing amount of development on the land adjacent to the river at the time of designation. Wild rivers are those with little or no adjacent development or evidence of human activity. Scenic rivers often have more development, including some structures and road crossings. Recreational rivers may include roads that parallel the river, communities and other development, and may even flow through urban areas. The Lamprey is designated as a recreational river.
5. What factors are involved in determining whether a river is appropriate for federal designation?
- eligibility -- To be eligible, the river segment must be free-flowing and possess one or more "oustandingly remarkable" resource values (e.g. fisheries, recreation, wildlife, history, etc.).
- suitability -- To be suitable, there must be long-term protection provided for the river's outstanding resources and strong public support for designation. Due to the lack of federal lands along the Lamprey, and a presumed desire to keep it this way, designation included a strong local commitment toward protection of the river and its special values.
6. Who decides if federal designation is appropriate?
The National Park Service is ultimately responsible for submitting a report to the US Congress that details a river conservation plan and makes a recommendation on federal designation. The National Park Service will not recommend federal designation of the river segment unless there is strong public support for designation. This support will be based upon the recommendation of each community along the river segment and the Local Advisory Committee.
7. Is all new development banned if a river is designated?
No. The purpose of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is to promote the wise management of growth that is sensitive to the river's values. Designation itself only affects federally licensed or assisted water resource projects that might impact the river's outstanding values. Other types of development continue to be regulated by local and state land use laws.
8. Does designation allow the federal government to zone my land?
No, the federal government has no power to zone private land. Land use controls on private land are solely a matter of state and local jurisdiction. Any changes to local or state zoning regulations associated with the designation occur only through existing procedures at the town or state levels.
9. Will the federal government be able to look over my shoulder at what I do on my private land?
No. Wild and Scenic River designation does not give the federal government any authority to infringe on an individual's privacy or property rights. Rumors often spread during a study that designation will result in the federal government’s telling people such things as what color to paint their house or whether they can repave their driveway. These rumors are unfounded. Designation has no effect on a property owner's ability to sell or subdivide property.
10. Do I have to provide public access across my property?
No. Landowners are under no obligation to provide access to or through their property, even if they have decided to grant a conservation easement.
11. Once designated, how is the river managed?
The river segment continues to be managed by local and state authorities in conjunction with the Local River Management Advisory Committee established under the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program. The National Park Service’s role is to assist this effort as requested, and to make sure that federal agency actions are compatible with the conservation of the river as outlined in the Lamprey River Management Plan.
12. Does the federal government contribute money to the management of the Lamprey as a designated river?
Yes, subject to the availability of funds and to the priorities established by the Local Advisory Committee.
13. Does designation mean the Lamprey River will become overrun by outsiders?
No. There are no requirements in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act for publicizing or promoting a newly designated river. The choice to publicize designation for tourism or other purposes lies solely with the towns along the river.