Established by the U.S. Congress in 1968, the National Wild & Scenic Rivers system protects "certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish & wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values." To be considered Wild & Scenic, a river must have at least one outstanding natural, cultural, historical, or recreational feature and be free-flowing.
The Westfield River became Massachusetts' first National Wild & Scenic River when forty-three miles were designated on November 2nd, 1993. Today, the designation has been expanded to encompass over 78 miles of the Westfield River's three major tributaries and headwater streams. The designated sections of the river flow through ten towns: Becket, Chester, Chesterfield, Cummington, Huntington, Middlefield, Savoy, Washington, Windsor & Worthington. All or parts of these communities fall within the Westfield River watershed draining to a designated section of the river.
As a state-administered Wild & Scenic River, the Westfield River is unique in that the management of the National Wild & Scenic River designation is accomplished through locally-based, state and federal protection. The Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee was formed with representatives of the ten Wild & Scenic towns and select partner organizations and agencies to implement the conservation plan for the river to ensure the Westfield River’s outstandingly remarkable attributes are around for generations to come. The partnership model ensures local control and involves no federal ownership. This means that rivers like the Westfield River, in the Partnership Wild & Scenic River Program are stewarded by the communities that know them best for the enjoyment of all people and to the benefit of all the natural world.