There’s nothing like a river.
Whether paddling, swimming or fishing, they are so much more than just a pretty sight. Rivers create an extraordinary and essential network, connecting town to town, land to land and people to people. But the truth is, we take these vital waterways for granted. With the alarming threats they face from pollution and depletion, protecting our rivers is more important now than ever before.
American Rivers is the leading U.S. organization in river preservation, and has worked to protect and restore over 150,000 miles of rivers through hard work, research and awareness. Each year they release the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, bringing light to 10 rivers that are in dire need of help. I chatted with American Rivers communications director Amy Kober about the report and got the scoop on this successful campaign and why we must continue the care of our rivers for future generations to enjoy.
Courtney Lamber: When did this campaign start and why?
Amy Kober: We’ve been releasing the Most Endangered Rivers report for around 30 years. We needed a way to shine the spotlight on rivers facing urgent threats in the coming years with key decisions that the public can influence. That’s important because by being able to focus media attention and the attention of decision makers, we can tell the story and share the urgency and get the public to act.
CL: What are the top reasons our rivers need to be taken care of and what will happen if not?
AK: Rivers are important for so many reasons. They give us clean drinking water, they are home to fish and wildlife, they give us opportunities to connect with family and friends through fishing, padding and other recreation, and in a broader sense rivers connect us; connect our communities. You think of the veins and arteries in our bodies- rivers are the veins and arteries of the land. If we don’t take care of them, we all suffer because healthy rivers are fundamental to our health, wellbeing and the economy. The importance is far reaching and if we don’t protect our rivers we are seeing places with polluted water, water shortages and fish and wildlife that have gone extinct.
CL: How are endangered rivers chosen each year?
AK: We solicit nominations from river groups and members around the country- anyone can nominate a river to be considered. That process typically runs for several months then we have a team of experts internally that looks at all the nominations and considers them based on certain criteria. 1) the significance of the threat, 2) the significance of the river to people and wildlife, 3rd and most important, whether there is a decision point in the coming year that the public can influence, and that will determine the fate of the river.
CL: What is the number one threat against rivers on this year’s report?
AK: Based on the report this year, it’s water supply- that’s an issue of demand for water outstripping supply. At the rate we are using and managing water, there won’t be enough for the future. We’ve been taking water for granted and we need to do a lot better with our management, conservation and efficiency. The good news is that we know what the solutions are. It’s working on all levels- from federal all the way down to the local level to get people coordinated, engaged and using water more wisely. There are communities around the country showing that not only is it possible, but they are saving money and growing their economies.
CL: After the report is released with the 10 chosen rivers, what happens in regards to saving them?
AK: On release day, there is a lot of media attention and stories written- but it doesn’t stop there. We do what we can to keep the issue alive and whatever the process or decision, we are there and we continue to work on it throughout the year. We work with local partners to hold all kinds of events everything from river clean ups to get the communities engaged and out there, picnics, festivals, concerts and press conferences.
CL: What can people do to get involved or help?
AK: The best way is to follow American rivers on Facebook and Twitter because we are constantly sending out updates on the current rivers. People can go to www.americanrivers.org and sign up for our Enews letter- that’s a great way for people to stay informed if they want to help take action and contact the city leaders about the endangered rivers.