For each federal agency the scope and nature of its river research activities are tied to its unique mission and management roles. In a report on New Strategies for America’s Watersheds (NRC, 1999b), the NRC reviewed in detail the involvement of federal agencies in water resources and river management. Table 3-1 summarizes the water-related responsibilities of federal agencies in 15 areas. Of these, research responsibilities were identified for eight federal agencies, with the USGS and the Environmental Protection Agency identified as having “significant responsibilities.” Table 3-2 summarizes water and water-related natural resources research and development (R&D) funding for several agencies. Figure 3-1 gives a spatial representation of some of these responsibilities for a “typical” medium-to-large river basin. In this section we briefly describe some of the research activities of these federal agencies in river science topics. We also describe some activities for several agencies that were not identified as having a major research role but whose research on related topics, or management roles, would have a significant influence on the needs and directions for river science research. Our summary is not intended to be comprehensive; instead, it is meant to provide context for the unique role of a USGS river science initiative within the larger multiagency enterprise that deals with river science and management issues.
Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)—Manages federal “wild and scenic rivers” and national forest lands to promote watershed protection. Its R&D scientists carry out basic and applied research to study biological, physical, and social sciences related to diverse forests and rangelands. According to the Forest Service, its research plays “a key role in sustaining our nation’s fisheries. For some native fishes, this is the only research program in the country with a primary focus on protecting, managing, and restoring their habitat. Research program objectives include: (1) defining habitat and ecosystem requirements; (2) identifying factors limiting populations; (3) developing methods to protect, improve, and restore habitats; and (4) developing cost-effective methods to monitor and evaluate habitats and populations.” The Forest Service also conducts watershed studies to understand better how watersheds function and what processes enhance or impair the quantity and quality of water that comes from forests (http://www.fs.fed.us/research/).