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Wild and Scenic Rivers Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Wild and Scenic River?

A Wild and Scenic River (WSR) is a portion of river that is protected to remain free-flowing (without dams) and to preserve its outstandingly remarkable values (scenic, recreational, geological, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values). Rivers are categorized in three ways:

    • Wild - generally inaccessible except by trail, and representing vestiges of primitive America.
    • Scenic - shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive, and largely undeveloped but accessible in places by roads.
    • Recreational - readily accessible by road or railroad.
How are WSRs established?

WSRs are designated by Acts of Congress.

What is the status of WSRs in New Mexico?

BLM manages two WSRs in New Mexico: The Rio Grande (which includes four miles of the Red River) and the Rio Chama.

What recreation activities occur in WSRs?

Recreational uses in WSRs include a wide variety of non-motorized and motorized activities.  Each area is unique and offers different opportunities and different restrictions, but common activities include rafting, fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, camping, nature study, photography, and driving off-highway vehicle routes.

Are motor vehicles allowed in WSR corridors?

Typically, motor vehicles are allowed only on routes designated for such use. Motor vehicle use in WSRs is typically not allowed. 

Is hunting and fishing permitted in WSRs and WSR corridors?

Yes. Hunting and fishing is allowed in WSRs and WSR corridors, subject to applicable state and federal laws. Fishing activities must be properly licensed, as required by state laws. 

Are guides and outfitters allowed to operate in WSRs?

Yes, when consistent with the managing office’s resource management plan. Guides and outfitters are required to be permitted by the BLM. There are a number of active guiding businesses providing rafting services on New Mexico WSRs.

Is grazing permitted?

Yes. Grazing is permitted subject to the same management as occurs on other BLM lands.

How does a WSR designation impact mining?

WSRs are not open to new mining. However, where a valid claim had been identified before designation, those minerals may be mined so long as such mining does not cause unnecessary or undue degradation.

Can roads, power lines, or pipelines be constructed?

Generally no, except where a valid existing right existed before the designation.

Are fires allowed to burn in WSR corridors?

In cases where fire plays a key function in the areas ecology, BLM will work to maintain the role of fire.  However, all fires must be controlled to prevent loss of human life or property within the NM or on lands adjacent to the NM.