Rivers Of The National Conservation Lands

“The Conservation Lands Foundation seeks to restore, protect and expand the National Conservation Lands… and rivers. We know that a beautiful river or stream is precisely what draws many people to these lands in the first place—and keeps them coming back.”

Our River Program is helping solve conservation issues on four priority tributaries of the Colorado River. It also supports local groups and policies that protect Wild & Scenic rivers—and the many more waterways that have yet to receive special designations or protection—within the National Conservation Lands.

CA Trinity Wild Scenic River BLM

Trinity Wild and Scenic River, California. Photo by Bob Wick, BLM

NM Rio Grande Wild River

Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, New Mexico. Photo by Scott Jones


Priority Tributaries of the Colorado River

Support from the Walton Family Foundation in 2010 enabled the Conservation Lands Foundation to place specific emphasis on river conservation. This coincided with a big push by many national organizations to draw attention to and improve flow and riparian conditions for the Colorado River. The Conservation Lands Foundation supports local grassroots organizations advocating for and working to improve flows in four special Colorado River tributaries:

Dolores River, Colorado. Photo by Kate Thompson

Dolores River, Colorado

Southwest Colorado’s wildly rugged, 230-mile long river flows through three BLM Wilderness Study Areas. Beloved by paddlers and people who study Native American history alike, this watershed is the focus of restoration work and a 12-year campaign to create the Dolores River National Conservation Area. Read and see more…

Escalante River, Utah

The major artery of the 2 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, the nation’s largest and first area established as part of the National Conservation Lands. This river is undergoing one of the largest restoration projects on the National Conservation Lands, conducted by a watershed partnership that is quickly becoming a model for other such work around the West. Learn more…

San Pedro River, Arizona

Southern Arizona’s desert river oasis, migratory bird paradise and a designated Riparian National Conservation Area. The San Pedro River has been recognized by many conservation organizations as globally significant. Long stretches of Sonoran cottonwoods and willows, several rare cienegas (a type of wetland), sacaton grasslands, and mesquite bosques are just a few of the reasons why. Read more…

Gunnison River, Colorado

One of Colorado’s prized Gold Medal Trout areas, important water source for agriculture, and a favorite destination for boaters from around the world. The Gunnison River flows through the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and carves one of the longest, narrowest, and deepest gorges in the world. Read more…

Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument by Rick and Suzie Graetz

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Montana. Photo by Rick and Suzie Graetz


Rafting on the Dolores River, Colorado. Photo by Kate Thompson

Wild and Scenic Rivers managed by the BLM

In addition to helping solve conservation issues on these priority Colorado River tributaries, the Conservation Lands Foundation supports groups and policies that protect Wild & Scenic rivers—and the many more waterways within National Monuments, Wilderness Study Areas, and National Conservation Areas that Congress has yet to designate as Wild & Scenic, even though they may have all the characteristics.

As part of the National Conservation Lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages:

  • 69 Wild and Scenic rivers in 7 states
  • adding up to more than 2,400 river miles
  • covering approximately 1,165,000 acres, or 19 percent of all the National Conservation Lands.

Chart of Wild and Scenic Rivers

Oregon Utah Alaska California Idaho Montana New Mexico Wild And Scenic Rivers

“Wild & Scenic,” a special designation established in 1968 when Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, created three categories for rivers: wild, scenic, and recreational. Wild rivers are free of dams, generally inaccessible except by trail, and represent vestiges of primitive America. Scenic rivers are free of dams, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads. Recreational rivers are readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have been dammed in the past.

Click here for a comprehensive list of all Wild and Scenic rivers managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Want to learn more about the policy and guidelines the BLM uses for managing Wild and Scenic rivers of the National Conservation Lands? The Conservation Lands Foundation has created a 17-page Executive Summary of the BLM’s recently revised Policy and Program Direction for Identification, Evaluation, Planning, and Management for the Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR). This is an important document, updated from the previous 1993 version, that outlines in seven chapters how Wild and Scenic rivers should be managed by the BLM.

The Executive Summary of this manual is intended to help river advocates understand the BLM’s basic management principles and responsibilities for these rivers.  This summary contains much of the same language from the original manual, however it is compiled and organized in shorter formats.

Download the Conservation Lands Foundation’s Executive Summary-Wild and Scenic Rivers Policy and Program Direction (17 pages)

Download the BLM’s  6400 – Wild and Scenic Rivers – Policy and Program Direction for Identification, Evaluation, Planning and Management (87 pages)