Since 2010 the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and its partners have been working to get national recognition of the Outstandingly Remarkable Values of seven rivers in southeastern New England – the Beaver, Chipuxet, Green Fall – Ashaway, Pawcatuck, Queen – Usquepaugh, Shunock, and Wood Rivers. These amazing rivers offer exceptional recreational opportunities for paddlers, birders, fisherman, and anyone who enjoys scenic waterways. They contain thousands of acres of wetlands providing habitat for a high diversity of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates. More rare and endangered species are found in the rivers of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed than anywhere else in the region. In addition, Native American archeological sites, historic mills, villages, and other structures can be found scattered along the shoreline.
On June 5, 2018 the Study Committee voted to adopt the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Stewardship Plan. Appendix A is the Summary of Federal, State, Municipal and Tribal Laws, Regulations, Ordinances and Plans. These documents are the locally-based Stewardship Plan that describes the eligibility and suitability of a Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation for the Beaver, Chipuxet, Green Fall-Ashway, Queen-Usquepaugh, Pawcatuck, Shunock, and Wood Rivers and how they will be protected.
As of July 16, 2018 all of the twelve towns in the watershed voted enthusiastically to support pursuing Wild and Scenic designation for the rivers and endorsing the Stewardship Plan. The next step is to introduce a bill into congress to amend the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to include the seven rivers of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed.
On October 2, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – created by Congress to preserve rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Chris Murphy (CT); and U.S. Congressmen Jim Langevin (RI), David Cicilline (RI) and Joe Courtney (CT) announced the introduction of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act (S. 3533 and H.R. 6950).
On March 12th 2019 President Trump signed into law a bipartisan public lands package to protect more than 1.3 million acres, 2,600 miles of new national trails, and 367 miles of new scenic rivers, including those in the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed. Designating these river segments of the 300-square mile Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) will open the door to additional federal preservation funding and support from the National Park Service. However, a Wild and Scenic designation would not give the federal government control of the property or prohibit future development.
- For more see this US Fish & Wildlife Service “storyboard”: A River Runs Free in Rhode Island: Returning the Pawcatuck River to its natural state helps wildlife and people.
What is a Wild and Scenic River?
From the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
…certain selected rivers of the Nation which possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved and protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations…
The Wood-Pawcatuck Wild & Scenic Rivers Study Committee has answered two questions:
- What is special about the Rivers or what are their Outstandingly Remarkable Values? See The Rivers to find out what those are.
- How will we protect “what’s special” about the river for future generations? See the Stewardship Plan.