In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to, as President Johnson stated in signing the legislation, “preserve sections of selected rivers that possess outstanding conservation values. . . . An unspoiled river is a very rare thing in this Nation today.” Fifty years later, the National Wild and Scenic River System has grown to include 208 different rivers or segments totaling more than 12,734 miles. In Idaho, there are 891 miles of designated wild and scenic river segments, including portions of the Main Salmon, Owyhee, Jarbidge, Bruneau Rapid, and Snake rivers, among other stretches. Of the original 8 rives designated by the Act in 1968, two—the Middle Fork of the Clearwater (including the Lochsa and Selway rivers) and Middle Fork of the Salmon—were in Idaho. Idaho Senator Frank Church sponsored the legislation in Congress, and Idaho’s designated rivers have always been central to the origins, history, and current management issues of the overall National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
As the National System has grown and matured, the issues it faces have progressed in three discernable waves. First came issues concerning the establishment of the system and the addition of river segments into the system. Second were efforts to resolve competing concerns about the place of Wild and Scenic Rivers System components in the overall system of natural resource and public lands management, including the balancing and allocation of recreational and other uses on designated river segments. The third wave is an increasing emphasis on the protection of designated system segments and management to protect the outstandingly remarkable values for which the segment was designated, and which President Johnson referenced in signing the Act.
This presentation will trace the history leading to the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, provide an overview of the three waves of implementation emphases for the System, highlight the System components and selected management issues in Idaho, and provide thoughts about the System’s future as it enters the next 50 years.
Murray Feldman is a partner with the Holland & Hart LLP law firm in Boise. He has worked on wild and scenic rivers research, conservation, and litigation for 35 years. He was the co-editor, together with The Community Library executive director Jenny Emery Davidson, of the 2016 Idaho Book of the Year, Idaho Wilderness Considered. His articles include “Learning to Manage Our National Wild and Scenic Rivers System” for the ABA’s Natural Resource & Environment magazine, and most recently “NEPA’s Scientific and Information Standards—Taking the Harder Look” in the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Journal. Murray received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall) School of Law, and his M.S. degree from the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources.