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Wild and Scenic Designation

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90- 542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

North Fork Nooksack Rive

The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

Wild and Scenic designation is proposed for portions of the upper watershed of the North, Middle, and South Forks of the Nooksack River and some of the key Wild and Scenic tributaries. (Top right image courtesy of Brett Baunton)

Canyon Creek in the North Fork watershed.

What does designation mean for the Nooksack?

Nooksack Wild and Scenic map

Wild and Scenic River designation protects key features of wild rivers:

  • Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs) are scenic, recreational, geological, fish-related, wildlife-related, historic, cultural, botanical, hydrological, paleontological, or scientific characteristics. An ORV must be a river-related value and an unique, rare, or exemplary feature that is significant at a comparative regional scale. See below for more information on key ORVs in the Nooksack proposal area. 

  • Free-flowing character means that the river flows in a natural condition without impoundment (dams), diversion, straightening, rip-rapping, or other modifications of the water. Wild and Scenic Designation would prohibit future development of dams and federally-assisted water projects which impair the free-flowing nature of the river.

  • Protecting habitat and water quality by establishing a 1/4 mile corridor of protected land from the ordinary high-water mark on both sides of the river. This designation area only applies on publicly-owned lands and does not impact private property. The Act and designation carries no authority to regulate the use of private property. It neither prohibits development nor gives the federal government control over private property. 

A Wild and Scenic designation provides resources, partnership and collaboration for management agencies and neighboring communities. The designation encourages landowners, tribal Nations and river users to participate in the process of developing a river management plan. The designation addresses resource protection, land development and facilities, public use, and overall management

Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs)

Wild and Scenic designation is designed to protect a river's special and unique values. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act deemed these "Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs)" and defined the following main types. Learn more about the following ORVs and where they are found in the proposed designation:

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