Guest Editorial | ParkRecord.com

Guest Editorial

Mark DanenhauerRiver Solutions CoordinatorUtah Rivers Council

Do you love to fish Stillwater Fork, Hayden Fork or the upper Provo River? Do you look forward to taking your children to Black’s Fork, Henry’s Fork or Smith’s Fork? If so, then you’ll want to be involved in the Forest Service’s Wild and Scenic River process. In the next two years the Forest Service will make recommendations about which of the rivers on Utah’s National Forests are suitable to become a Wild and Scenic River. During this evaluation many factors will be considered, notable among which include whether or not there is support from local governments and the public for protecting a river.

It is vital that the public understand the implications of designation as a National Wild and Scenic River in order to be able to make an informed decision based on facts rather than one based on fear.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is a powerful, yet flexible, tool for river protection. The act permanently protects a river’s free-flowing nature, prohibiting construction of any dams or diversions. However, it does not lock out people or uses. Most traditional human uses of the river and corridor are allowed to continue as long as they do not harm the values for which the river was designated. For example, fishing, boating and even grazing will be allowed to continue as long as they do not negatively impact the river.

Wild and Scenic River status is not a one-size-fits-all designation. The act allows for local involvement and input from all stakeholders in creating the management plan of a river. Once a river is designated, a management plan is developed that will protect the values of that particular river. The Act is far from a cookie cutter approach; it is unique for each individual river.

It is important to note that only a free-flowing river is eligible to become a Wild and Scenic River. Free flowing rivers, streams and creeks play essential roles in Utah communities, providing a myriad of recreational opportunities such as fishing and boating, ensuring a healthy and properly functioning ecosystem, maintaining the health and sanity of Utah’s citizens, and contributing to local economies. Fishing alone contributes hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Utah’s economy.

Utah has some incredible rivers, ranging from serene flat water to raging rapids and from streams in high alpine environments to red rock deserts, and even some world famous rivers such as the Green and Colorado. However, none of Utah’s incredible rivers are protected as a Wild and Scenic River.

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This Forest Service process is the best chance in decades for real river protection in Utah. People who love rivers should get involved! The Utah Rivers Council has created a "Get Wild with a River" campaign to help people get engaged in the process. To learn more about Get Wild with a River or the Forest’s Service Wild and Scenic River process visit http://www.utahrivers.org .

There are 19 rivers in Summit County that will be considered as part of this process. This is a chance to ensure real protection for rivers like the headwaters of the Bear, Henrys Fork, Black’s Fork and the headwaters of the Provo River. The Forest Service is hosting an open house on May 29 in Heber City at the Wasatch County Senior Center. This is a great opportunity to come and speak out for the rivers you love!