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Impacts of Wild and Scenic Rivers Designation

John Keith, Paul Jakus, and Jacoba Larsen Department of Economics and Steve Burr, Doug Reiter, and Jascha Zeitlin Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism


Phase 1 of the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office Socioeconomic Baseline Study was undertaken in order to determine specific issues that were important to both the Utah general population and State, regional, and local government officials . After completion of a general population survey and focus group-type meetings with local government officials, several Phase 2 studies were identified that would fill information gaps regarding various specific issues of public land management and its impact on the State and local communities. Among these studies were (1) a survey of attitudes about and uses of public lands by the general population of Utah; (2) a study of the dependency on and alternatives to public land grazing by livestock operators in Utah; (3) a study of the management of watershed vegetation for water production and the value of changes in water production; (4) a study of off highway vehicle (OHV) uses and users; and (5) a study of the impacts of Wild and Scenic River designation on recreation use and on economic development of local communities. This report deals with the fifth of the studies.

Both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service are revising their land and resource management plans within the State of Utah. Each of the various revision processes includes Wild and Scenic River Studies, as required by Section 5(d)(1) [1276(d)(1)] of the Wild and Scenic River Act (16 U.S.C.§§ 1271-1287, October 2, 1968, as amended [the Act]). The Act establishes National policy for the preservation and protection of certain rivers of the Nation and their immediate environments. The Act specifically “[d]eclares that the established national policy of dam and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.” Additionally, the Act implements the stated policy “[b]y instituting a national wild and scenic river system, by designating the initial components of that system, and by prescribing the methods by which and standards according to which additional components may be added to the system from time to time.” The prescribed methods are found in the aforementioned Section 5(d)(1) (The Act, excepting the description of specific rivers or river segments so designated, is included in Appendix 1).

Intuitively, designated rivers could have a positive impact on recreation visitation and positive or negative impacts on current or future uses other than recreation.

Utah State University Logan, UT June 1, 2008