The Scenic Streams Stewardship Program was designed to promote
voluntary private conservation efforts along Mississippi's unique
and outstanding rivers and streams.
As we enter a new century, the landscape of Mississippi will
change. People will continue to move out of cities into rural areas
with road building projects expanding to connect communities and
accommodate this development.
The agriculture and forestry industries will continue to provide
food, building materials and paper and pulp products for our
society. People and industry will make expanding demands on water
resources for services such as sewage treatment, surface drainage,
and water for industrial processes.
Our rivers and streams will flow through this increasingly
populated and complex landscape. When you consider the multiple
uses that we presently demand of our rivers and streams, increased
demands in the future are a cause for concern.
Streams accommodate our various human activities, but at the same
time they support a rich variety of fish, aquatic animals, and
plants. Streams, their flood plains, and hardwood bottom-lands
provide essential wildlife habitat for deer, turkeys, rabbits,
squirrels, most of our migratory and native songbirds, and
countless other varieties of wildlife.
People have long felt a strong connection to streams and rivers.
They run through our history, our literature and our personal
experiences. Whether it is the scenery, the sounds, the cool water
on a summer day, the pull of a fish in the current, or the gliding
of a canoe, streams and rivers provide us with diverse pleasures.
Their value to us is not easily measured, but it is great. To
maintain this value, streams need the consideration and help of
landowners and others.
In the Act that creates the Scenic Streams Stewardship Program,
the drafters wrote that there is a necessity for a "rational
balance between the use of these streams and the conservation of
the natural beauty along these streams." Conservation is possible
through the concern and effort of landowners of property adjoining
rivers and streams.
Landowners along streams need to make their land produce income
for them just like landowners without streams. Their financial
obligations begin with annual taxes to the County, and involve
mortgages and loan payments.
Stream side landowners are different from other landowners because
their activities along the stream can directly affect it for better
For these select few people, there is tremendous opportunity to be
good stewards of the water, land, and wildlife along the stream.
Stewardship is defined by Webster's as " the careful responsible
management of something entrusted to one." A steward is a
The Scenic Streams Stewardship Program asks that landowners
consider voluntarily using Best Management Practices (BMPS)along
streams and leaving a buffer zone of trees and vegetation along the
banks. A stream buffer zone or Streamside Management Zone (SMZ) of
an appropriate size and width will keep erosion to a minimum, and
will keep stream banks stable. The width of the buffer zone is left
strictly up to the landowner. Soil specialists or foresters can
recommend appropriate widths based on slope, and soil
The benefits of keeping stream banks intact through the use of
BMPS are many. Property values remain strong, soil and nutrients
stay in place, and the stream avoids degradation from silt, caving
banks and erosion. Also, swimming holes stay deep, and a canopy of
trees helps keep water temperatures cool.
There is a balance for landowners between leaving uncut buffer
zones and using their land and timber resources fully. Trees left
standing translate to foregone profits in a timber sale. The
legislature made the Stream Program completely voluntary so nobody
would feel regulated into leaving uncut trees.
A landowner participating in the Scenic Streams Stewardship
Program will become eligible for any tax incentives that may come
into existence. The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks
recognizes that tax credits or other financial incentives will
greatly aid this stream buffer program.
Recently enacted state tax credits for re-planting trees
(Reforestation Tax Credit) will help those who replant along
streambanks. Tax credits for fish and wildlife habitat improvement
activities along streams are desired at this time by the Department
and will be proposed to the Legislature. Proposed creditable
activities include leaving buffer zones along streams. Federal tax
law presently provides income tax deductions and estate tax
reductions for qualified conservation donations such as
This Program considers one stream at a time, and is built at the
community level. If a stream is evaluated and found eligible, an
Advisory Council with a landowner majority is assembled from the
communities near the stream. If strong public support for
nomination is shown in the community, and if this is reflected by
comments at the public meeting, a bill of nomination is submitted
to the legislature. If local support is lacking, the stream won't
be nominated. This is a joint decision of the Advisory Council and
This program gives interested landowners a way to do things that
will have a positive effect on their streams without mandatory
Following passage by Congress of the National Wild and Scenic
Rivers Act in 1968, Mississippi's first attempt at a streams bill
was in 1969. After 6 failed attempts at a regulatory streams act,
the project was abandoned in 1978. If nothing else, it was clear
that a program that was mandatory or regulatory would not work in
Mississippi. Twenty years later came a renewed effort to have a
streams program in Mississippi without regulation. This effort came
under the leadership of the late Richard L. "Dick" Livingston,
chairman of the House Game and Fish Committee, and William Y.
Quisenberry, of The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks - a
longtime key player in state land conservation . The Mississippi
Scenic Stream Stewardship Act was passed in the in the 1999
Legislative Session and was signed by the Governor March 16, 1999.
This legislation created the Scenic Streams Stewardship Program
which began August 9,1999.
The goal of the program is to encourage voluntary private
conservation efforts by riparian (stream-side) landowners. In a
non-regulatory framework, landowners will be assisted in voluntary
management agreements which seek to maintain scenic values while
ensuring their rights to continue customary uses along the
When a stream or river is nominated to the program, a
landowner-based stewardship plan will be created for it. Generally,
the goal is to maintain good water quality for recreation and fish
and wildlife habitat. Achievement of the goal will be through use
of Best Management Practices ( BMPS) which are water quality
improvement practices that will maintain the health of streams by
keeping stream banks in good condition and preventing harmful
The program applies to streams that have not been channelized
within the past five (5) years and are considered by law to be
public waters. Designation as a public waterway depends on the
volume of water that flows in the particular section of the stream.
The Public Water Statute, Mississippi Code § 51-1-4, provides that
for a stream to be a public waterway, the mean annual flow volume
must be at least one hundred (100) cubic feet per second (cfs).
Small headwater sections of streams do not generally qualify as
public waters, and so it is the middle and lower sections of
streams that may be qualified for the Scenic Stream Stewardship
Program. However, all landowners will be able to participate in tax
credits for reforestation, and stream conservation activities.
Status of Eligible and Nominated Streams
- What is the chance that this program will turn into
something that is regulatory, and can the Federal Government come
in on the heels of this program and take it over?
This program is a creation of the Mississippi State Legislature.
If it changes, the legislature will have to do it. It would be
against legislative intent to have a regulatory program. This much
can be learned from a reading of the first paragraph of the Act
which created the program. The Legislature refused for nearly 30
years to pass regulatory versions of a streams program. The efforts
failed six times between 1969 and 1978. In 1999, this voluntary,
non-regulatory, landowner outreach program was created and passed
into law. The legislature does not want to regulate landowners with
a streams program.
In order for the Federal Government to come in on the heels of a
state program, the Federal Government must have delegated (given)
administrative powers to the state over some subject and provided
the state with federal guidelines to follow, and the state must
have failed to follow them.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks has
not been delegated any administrative power over streams or waters
by the Federal government. The Stream Stewardship program is
Mississippi law, not Federal law, and so there is no basis for the
federal government to step in.
- Will this open up my stream to more public use and all
the attendant problems, littering, too many people
No. The important fact is that this does not change public water
law, nor does it give anyone more legal rights to float, swim or
use public waters than they had before the program.
This is a landowner outreach program. There is some required
public notice about meetings and about the nomination and
designation, but most of the interaction with people is aimed at
landowners along the stream or river.
The day to day work of the Program, and the vast majority of the
correspondence, contact, and transactions will be with landowners.
This is not a promotional campaign to open up a river to more use.
It is a stream buffer program, with water quality and stream bank
stability as its goals. It seeks stability or improvement of fish
and wildlife habitat, not increased exploitation of streams.
Recreational use will be a natural consequence of having a healthy,
scenic stream. Most recreational users of public waters tend to
value many of the same scenic qualities as the landowners in the
program. Recreational users who litter, and break laws will be
dealt with by law enforcement officers as is the present case.
- If all the program really asks is that folks use BMPs
voluntarily, what is the difference between this and the way things
were before, because BMPs were already voluntary. Why do we need a
Scenic Streams Program to do this?
BMPs are voluntary, it is true. The idea of leaving buffer zones
along streams is hard to oversell or overemphasize. Farmers have
had buffer programs such as CRP and WRP for some time. When
compared with farmers, non-agricultural landowners along streams
are less likely to receive the message about improving water
quality with buffer zones. This program provides a way to directly
reach these people.
County and local governments generally do not have the people or
resources to do educational programs that reach out to landowners,
and since stream conservation is a statewide issue, it is proper
for a statewide resource agency to undertake such a task. This
program uniquely fits the expertise of an agency such as the
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Streams provide
habitat for the fishery and wildlife resources that the Agency
manages. Healthy in-stream and riverbank habitats help sustain fish
and both game and non-game wildlife species.
A Stewardship Plan considers a river as a whole and provides a
framework in which voluntary, coordinated private conservation
efforts can link its different reaches with protective buffer
zones. This is a watershed approach to conservation. Also,
concerned landowners have not up till now had a way to be part of
an organized plan. They may have used BMPs because they felt it
would help the river , but they couldn't see how their activities
related to what others may have been doing to keep the river or
stream healthy. For landowners who never heard of BMPs, this
program is a way to spread the message that riparian landowners
have a substantial effect on the river for better or worse and that
the choices they make matter for the overall condition of the
Unity of purpose and the ability to see how one's efforts relate
to similar undertakings up and down a stream make this different
from the status quo. This gives direction to concerned riparian
landowners and a way to focus their concerns about their
Scenic Streams Program FAQ's