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How are rivers nominated and designated to the CHRS?

For a river to be nominated to the CHRS, it must have outstanding natural and/or cultural values with important recreational values and a high level of public support. 

While the initial goal of the program was building a comprehensive system of rivers that represent the full spectrum of Canada’s rich river heritage, the priorities have shifted toward maintaining and strengthening it for the future. As such, there has been decline in new rivers designated to the system. 

If an organization or individual wishes to begin the nomination process for a river they feel should be a part of the system, a step-by-step guide to the nomination and designation process is provided below. Members of the CHRS Team are available to provide support and guidance every step of the way.

Step 1

Inquiry: Contact your provincial or territorial Canadian Heritage Rivers Board member or member of the Technical Planning Committee (TPC). This first step may involve a discussion of whether your river’s natural or cultural values make it a viable candidate for the CHRS.


Step 2

Pre-screening: Your Board or TPC member will provide you with resources to help you understand CHRS policies and procedures and assess your river’s natural and historic values. The Technical Planning Committee member will advise you whether or not a pre-screening report should be prepared to review your river’s candidacy before time and effort is put into preparing a nomination.


Step 3

Background Study: If the pre-screening report is positive and the provincial or territorial government supports the river’s nomination, you will be invited to apply for financial support to prepare a background study that will inventory your river’s natural, cultural and recreational values. 


Step 4

Nomination Document: Once the background study has been completed, a nomination document must be prepared and submitted to the Board for its consideration. Nomination documents build on the background document’s inventory of values. They must make a persuasive argument for the river’s exceptional values and inclusion in the System. The document must also demonstrate a high amount of community support for the nomination.


Step 5

Review and Approval of the Nomination: If the river meets selection guidelines, the Board will recommend that the nomination be officially approved by the appropriate provincial or territorial Minister and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada (the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada). An announcement celebrating the nomination of the river will then be prepared by the federal and provincial governments, in cooperation with the community-level river proponent.


Step 6

Producing a Designation Document: A designation document (also known as a management plan or heritage strategy) must be prepared that describes how the river will be managed to conserve its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values. Financial support is also available for this step, which requires public consultations. The CHRS program is non-legislative, which means that all conservation actions described in the designation document are voluntary. No new regulations or laws are created when rivers are designated to the CHRS.


Step 7

Review and Approval of the Designation:  The designation document is reviewed by the Technical Planning Committee and tabled with the Board for its recommendation to the appropriate provincial or territorial Minister and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada to formally designate the river to the CHRS. Once this approval has been obtained, a news announcement and plaque unveiling ceremony can take place.


A canoe is being prepared to set out on the St. Croix River, while a second lies ready on the nearby shore.


A Great Blue Heron sits along the shores of the Rideau Canal.


An aerial photo of the Kazan deltas, where the river meets Baker Lake. Large sand islands are visible at the mouth of the river.

What happens after designation?

After a river is designated to the System, an annual report is prepared each year describing changes, improvements and threats to the values for which the river was designated. River-based events and stewardship actions are also listed in annual reports. Every ten years, an in-depth review of the river’s values is undertaken and a monitoring report on the decade is prepared and tabled with the Board.

Templates for nomination and designation documents, annual and ten-year monitoring reports and many other useful policy and educational documents are available on the Resources page.