From 2010-2018 the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and its partners had been working to get federal recognition of the Outstandingly Remarkable Values of seven rivers in southeastern New England – the Beaver, Chipuxet, Green Falls, Pawcatuck, Queen, Shunock, and Wood Rivers. These amazing rivers offer exceptional recreational opportunities for paddlers, birders, fisherman, and anyone who enjoys scenic waterways. A grassroots group of environmental organizations and local towns in cooperation with the National Parks Service conducted a three year study. The Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Study Committee was made up of town-appointed representatives from Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, North Kingstown, Richmond, South Kingstown, West Greenwich, and Westerly in RI; and North Stonington, Sterling, Stonington, and Voluntown in CT. The partners were Save The Bay, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, RI Natural History Survey, RI Department of Environmental Management, and CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. During this study the committee documented and reported on the values of these seven rivers, achieving the goal of having these rivers included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The Study Committee was responsible for answering two questions:
- What is special about the rivers (identify their Outstandingly Remarkable Values)?
- How are we going to protect the rivers’ values?
In order to do this the Study Committee created the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Stewardship Plan. This plan documents the values of the rivers and identifies the protections already in place for these values. In addition it has a suggested actions to help protect and improve the values for future generations.
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018 the Study Committee voted to adopt the final version of the Wild and Scenic Stewardship Plan . This version incorporates all the comments received from the twelve towns and two state agencies. Appendix A is the Planning Summary, a report by Mason and Associates, Inc. that is a comprehensive list of the Federal, State, Municipal, and Tribal Plans, Ordinances, and Regulations that relate to the protection of the Outstandingly Remarkable Values of the Rivers. In 2018, all twelve participating towns, RI DEM and CT DEEP enthusiastically voted to adopt the Stewardship Plan. On March 12, 2019 the communities goal was accomplished, these seven rivers are formally designated as Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Study Committee was established in late 2015 and completed their major task, authoring the Stewardship Plan, by late 2018. Members for the Study Committee were sought from Exeter, Hopkinton, North Kingstown, Richmond, South Kingstown, West Greenwich and Westerly in Rhode Island and North Stonington, Sterling, Stonington, and Voluntown in Connecticut through a public application process open to all communities’ residents. Up to two committee members were appointed by each Town Council or Board of Selectmen and the Narragansett Indian Tribe. The Study Committee included similar members as the current Stewardship Council, including town representatives (individuals appointed by towns) and representatives of public agencies. Committee members represented a broad range of expertise and interests related to the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed. The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) was asked to coordinate the study and serve as fiscal agent by Study Committee members and the National Parks Service.
Funding from the National Park Service Partnership Wild & Scenic Rivers Program (about $56,000 per year for the three-year York River Study) had been awarded through a Cooperative Agreement with WPWA.
Past Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Study Committee members:
Members who Represented Towns:
- James Cole, Charlestown, RI
- Bruce Loeckler, Charlestown, RI
- Nils Wiberg, Charlestown, RI
- Virginia Wooten, Charlestown, RI
- Roy Heaton, Exeter, RI
- Sean Henry, Hopkinton, RI (Committee Chair)
- Maureen Kennelly, Hopkinton, RI
- Richard Diamond, North Kingstown, RI
- Meg Kerr, North Kingstown, RI
- Doug Harris, Narragansett Indian Tribe
- Madeline Jeffery, North Stonington, CT
- Richard Seager, North Stonington, CT
- Carol Ann Baker, Richmond, RI
- Tom McCormick, Richmond, RI
- Peter Paton, Richmond, RI
- Denise Stetson, Richmond, RI
- Ken Burke, South Kingstown, RI
- Dennis Migneault, South Kingstown, RI
- Karen Stein, South Kingstown, RI
- Oren Cooke, Sterling, CT
- Roger Gibson, Sterling, CT
- Robert McLevy, Sterling, CT
- James Leigh, Stonington, CT
- Fred Wagner, Stonington, CT
- Tracey Hanson, Voluntown, CT
- Jon Ericson, Westerly, RI
- Harrison Gatch, Westerly, RI
- Louis Sposato, Westerly, RI
- Catherine Sparks, RI Department of Environmental Management
- Jay Aron, RI Department of Environmental Management
- Eric Thomas, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
- Meg Kerr, Audubon Society of RI
- Dave Prescott, Save The Bay
- Rachel Calabro, Save The Bay
- John O’Brien, The Nature Conservancy
- Joe MacAndrew, Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association
- Jamie Fosburgh, National Park Service
- Sarah Bursky, National Park Service
Study Coordinator: Denise Poyer, Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association
Frequently Asked Questions
- Brook Trout
- Historic Sites
- Land Use
- Land Use within Quarter Mile Buffer
- Locator Map
- Natural Heritage Areas
- Protected Land
- Protected Land within Quarter Mile Buffer
- River Segment Classifications
- River Segments with Quarter Mile Buffers
- Study Rivers
- Unfragmented Habitat Cores
Documents and Reports
- Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic River Study, Study Report, 2019
- Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed, National Park Service Northeast Region, 2013
- Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers 20 Years of Success, National Park Service Northeast Region, 2016
- NPS Wild and Scenic Rivers Study Process, National Parks Service 1999
Examples of Other Studies
- 8 Mile River NPS Report
- 8 Mile River Management Plan
- Lower Farmington and Salmon Brook Study Report
- Farmington River Management Plan
- Tauton River Draft NPS Report
- Tauton River Stewardship Plan
Monthly Meeting Agendas and Minutes
The Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Study Committee met from 2015 to 2018. The Stewardship Council began meeting in May of 2019.
- December 18, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- October 23, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- September 13, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- June 5, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- April 17, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- March 6, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- January 30, 2018: Agenda & Minutes
- December 14, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- November 14, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- September 28, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- August 24, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- July 18, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- June 1, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- April 6, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- March 2, 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- January, 26 2017: Agenda & Minutes
- December 1, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- October 26, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- October 6, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- August 29, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- June 27, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- May 25, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- April 14, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- March 2, 2016: Agenda & Minutes
- January, 28 2016: Agenda & Minutes
March 12, 2019: Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Passes!
The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) and the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Study Committee, were pleased to announce the passage of the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by the United States Congress and President.
The bill was sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed (RI), Senators Jim Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (CT), Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline (RI), and Representative Joe Courtney (CT). The bill was in combination with the Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act that protected lands and rivers nationwide, it also established a revolving Land and Water Conservation Fund and designated additional Wild and Scenic Rivers. February 12th in the Senate and on the 26th in the House, this bill was voted on and received outstanding majority support. This prestigious designation will provide federal funds for local efforts to protect and enhance seven local rivers for many generations to come.
“This is a significant win for Rhode Island and for public lands and waters nationwide. I am pleased we were able to get bipartisan backing to include the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act in this package. These are exceptional rivers that flow throughout several communities, and some across state lines. Keeping them clean and healthy is a team effort and it’s essential for our environment and economy,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior & Environment. “This designation will help ensure new sources of funding flow to Rhode Island for river restoration, environmental education, and other community-based conservation projects. I commend everyone who worked collaboratively to rally strong community support for this effort.”
To date, over 200 rivers in 40 states across the country have been accepted into the National Wild Scenic River System, but so far none in Rhode Island have received the designation.
“This is a significant victory for Rhode Island that would not have been possible without the dedication of our local advocates who worked tirelessly to make this designation a reality,” said Congressman Langevin. “After years of hard work at the local, state and federal levels, we are taking a firm step to preserve the beauty and ecological value of the Wood-Pawcatuck waterways for generations to come. I thank my colleagues in the Rhode Island and Connecticut delegations for their longstanding commitment to protecting this natural resource.”
“Today, the President signed into law legislation that codifies the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed as an entity of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Program,” said Congressman Courtney. “This designation will bring much-needed funding for research and conservation to our own natural treasure in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I’m proud to have helped getting this bill over the finish line with my colleagues, and I know there are numerous stakeholders on the ground ready to get to work to preserve the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed for generations to come.”
December 12, 2014: Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act Passes!
The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) and its partners, The Nature Conservancy, Save the Bay, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, are pleased to announce the passage of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act by the United States Congress. “The bill, sponsored by Congressmen Jim Langevin (RI) and Joe Courtney (CT) in the House, and Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate, was included with a number of other land bills as part of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed by the House last week and the Senate on Friday, December 12, 2014.”
“The Wood and Pawcatuck Rivers are important to Rhode Island’s economy and environment and we must protect these natural resources. I commend Congressman Langevin for his efforts to get this bill done. This initiative could help develop a collaborative river management plan to address issues ranging from fish passages to the restoration of wetlands to assistance with flood mitigation,” said Senator Jack Reed.
The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act will require that the National Parks Service complete a three year study to assess whether the Wood, Pawcatuck, Beaver, Chipuxet, and Queen Rivers meet the standards to be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In anticipation of the passage of this act, Congressman Langevin requested a Reconnaissance Survey of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed, which was completed in October 2013. The survey summary stated “The NPS reconnaissance survey team has determined, based on readily available information that segments of the Wood-Pawcatuck River exhibit free-flowing character and noteworthy natural, cultural and recreational resource values likely to meet eligibility criteria for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”
An important part of the on-going Wild and Scenic Study will be the inclusion of the all stakeholders in the development of a stewardship plan for the rivers. This process will allow for the identification of those remarkably outstanding values that make the rivers so important to the community, and a community-based plan to protect those values.
NPS Reconnaissance Survey
A reconnaissance survey of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed was conducted by the Northeast Region of the National Park Service in 2013 at the request of RI State Representative Jim Langevin as an initial step prior to authorization of a full study. The reconnaissance survey provides a preliminary assessment of the eligibility and suitability of the rivers of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed as candidates for a Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation according to criteria established under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The survey looked at the rivers’ natural, cultural, historic, scenic and recreational resources, water quality, and free-flowing condition, along with existing local protections and community support for long-term river protection.
Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed, prepared by the National Park Service Northeast Region 2013
The NPS reconnaissance survey team has determined, based on readily available information, that segments of the Wood-Pawcatuck River exhibit free-flowing character and noteworthy natural, cultural and recreational resource values likely to meet eligibility criteria for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In addition, the presence of very strong community and interest group support for a Wild and Scenic River Study, together with a demonstrated track record of natural and cultural resource protection, support key elements of suitability for inclusion in the System, and provide a strong indication that a Wild and Scenic River Study would be appropriate and productive.