National Blueways System 101
Fostering strong partnerships, connecting people with the outdoors, promoting healthy rivers and watersheds, promoting economic opportunities, and learning and sharing knowledge – these are the cornerstones of the National Blueways System. What else should you know about the National Blueways System?
What is the Difference Between Blueways and Blue Trails?
A blueway and a blue trail are completely different. A blueway is a federal designation, while a blue trail is a purely local initiative.
National Blueways are designated by the Department of the Interior. These are nationally significant, large river systems supported by diverse stakeholder partnerships that use an integrated and adaptive watershed approach to resource stewardship.
Blue Trails are rivers adopted by local communities that are dedicated to improving family-friendly recreation such as fishing, boating, and wildlife watching, and conserving land and water resources. They connect urban and rural communities to treasured landscapes, provide a fun way to get kids outdoors, and they are economic drivers that benefit local business and quality of life.
What is the goal of the National Blueways System?
The National Blueways System recognizes and supports a new generation of river partnerships that connect communities to our shared natural heritage, to outdoor recreation opportunities, to sustainable economies and to each other.
How will a National Blueway designation benefit my community?
A designation brings a commitment among federal agencies to collaborate with local stakeholders, opportunities for tangible assistance across partnerships and federal agencies, and national recognition and prestige for local communities. Specific benefits include:
- Marketing value and recognition tools offered by federal and partner organizations
- Memoranda of Understanding and Cooperative Agreements among federal agencies and commitments of support from public and private partners
- Opportunities for federal technical assistance to achieve partnership goals, including development of an online River Atlas in collaboration with stakeholder.
What types of rivers are eligible for designation?
The program focuses on large rivers and watersheds, which cross multiple and diverse geographic and jurisdictional boundaries. It focuses on whole rivers and watersheds, not segments. For a river to be designated it requires both federal and state support.
How does a river become designated as a National Blueway?
Nominations are made voluntarily by a local watershed partnership in cooperation with a sponsoring federal and state agency. A two-step process is initiated with submission of a pre-application to determine eligibility. Selected partnerships are invited to submit a full application.
The program is entirely voluntary and is all about local goals and local vision for the river. Community support is essential for a blueways designation to be appropriate and effective.
When was the National Blueways System established?
The National Blueways System was established in May of 2012 by a Secretarial Order from the Department of the Interior.
Does a designation provide any new governmental authority to the federal government?
No.Participation in the National Blueways System is entirely voluntary, locally-led, and non-regulatory. It has no effect on private property rights, water rights or governmental authorities.
Does the National Blueways System promote government efficiency?
Yes. The National Blueways System promotes collaboration among public and private partnerships and across jurisdictions. It promotes government efficiency by encouraging federal agencies to work together to utilize successful programs that already exist.
Does the National Blueways System enhance sustainable economic opportunities?
Yes. Outdoor recreation is an important economic engine for local communities across the U.S. Economic development and outdoor recreation are major components of the National Blueways System. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation annually generates:
- 6.1 million American jobs
- $646 billion in outdoor recreation spending each year
- $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue
- $39.7 in state and local tax revenue
Contact us for more information about our Blue Trails program. Or visit the Interior Department’s National Blueways System website to find out if your river might be a fit for the National Blueways System.