Your Watershed / Crystal River / Wild and Scenic

Crystal River’s Wild and Scenic Eligibility

The USFS found that the Crystal River is eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. The next step, a Suitability Study, will determine if:

  • There is demonstrated commitment to protect the river by non-federal entities which is necessary to share responsibility for implementing protective management plans. 
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers designation will in fact protect the Crystal’s free flowing character and outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs).
  • The free-flowing character and ORVs of the Crystal SHOULD be protected, or if there are other more important issues.
  • Historical or existing rights could be impacted.

How a River Gains Wild and Scenic Status

Rivers are assessed by federal land management agencies in a multistep process: 

Step 1 - Eligibility  Is the river free flowing?  Does it possess one or more outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs) such as scenic, recreational, geological, fish/wildlife, historical, cultural, botanical, hydrological, or paleontological?  ORVs make a river unique, rare or exemplary within their region and rivers contain enough water to support those values.  The Crystal River has already been deemed eligible for WSR status.

Step 2 - Suitability  This collaborative process works to identify how to best protect and/or enhance ORVs through an EIS and Land Use Planning process.  Stakeholders are asked to share input on the positive and negative impacts of designation.

Step 3 - Congressional Action  Only congress or the Secretary of the Interior (under special circumstances) can designate a river as Wild and Scenic.  This decision takes into account the two previous steps.

How a River Gains Wild and Scenic Status

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968 

"It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams 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."  Championed by Senator Frank Church, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson


Wild and Scenic designation allows for:

  • Management with the goal of protecting and enhancing the values that facilitated the initial designation
  • The continuation of recreation, agriculture and residential development
  • Voluntary stewardship by landowners and river users
  • Protection of the river via regulation and programs of federal, state or local governments


Wild and Scenic designation does not:

  • Prohibit development. Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation does not affect private landowners' ability to develop privately owned lands within the designated area.
  • Allow government to take ownership of riverside land when a river is designated. Existing ownership of land will most likely remain unchanged. The government usually acquires riverside lands through voluntary purchase or easements.  The use of “eminent domain” is very rare having been used on only 4 of the more than 250 rivers in the national system.
  • Allow federal government to support actions that would harm the river’s free-flowing, water quality or outstanding remarkable values, such as the construction of dams or other detrimental instream activities
  • Effect existing water rights or the existing jurisdiction of states and the federal government over waters as previously established by law
  • Limit public access. Public access to and recreation, whether it be fishing, boating, etc., will not be changed.  In fact, Wild and Scenic seeks to protect those activities.   Recreational use of public lands adjacent to a Wild and Scenic River will continue as before.  Hunting, camping and other legal land uses will be allowed and will continue to be regulated under existing state laws.
  • Take private land owner rights away. The Act carries no authority to control the use of privately owned 
    land, even if private lands are included within the boundaries of the protected river corridor.  Landowners will be able to use their land just as they had before designation. 
  • Allow current land uses to be stopped along a newly designated river.Most current land uses, public and private, will continue after designation.  Remember, the goal of Wild and Scenic is to “protect and enhance”  existing values and uses of the river and surrounding lands.
  • Allow the federal government to control zoning of private lands along a Wild and Scenic River. The Act carries no authority to affect the zoning of private lands.That authority is reserved for state and local governments.


Contact Us

Roaring Fork Conservancy

PHONE: (970) 927-1290

PO Box 3349
Basalt, CO 81621

22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621

What's New

Fryingpan Fishing Brings in $3.8 Million Annually to Local Economy Learn More