My View: We Won’t Turn Our Backs to Rivers
American Rivers Helps Forge a Healthy Future for America’s Great Outdoors
Matthew Rice, Associate Director Southeast Conservation at American Rivers
With more than 3 million miles of streams or rivers in the U.S., virtually every American lives within a couple of miles of a river. Rivers, streams and creeks are found everywhere and help a broad cross section of people connect to nature and discover America’s great outdoors.
American Rivers, along with the National Wildlife Federation and many other leading organizations, have been working hard this summer to support the Obama Administration’s national America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative.
The purpose of the initiative is to craft a conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century. Committed to building this program from the ground up, the administration is currently holding “listening sessions” around the country. The sessions, which run into the fall, aim to hear from you about local conservation and recreation success stories, as well as learn about challenges communities face while working to reconnect people to the outdoors.
Rivers: A fun and exciting way to discover the outdoors
Recreating on rivers can be intimidating for some people. For too long we have turned our backs to rivers and people have lost a connection to the very resource that built some communities. Blueways, or water trails, are an innovative, locally-driven way to safely connect people with rivers and meet this century’s conservation needs.
A blueway is a dedicated stretch of river that enjoys special clean water safeguards and is a destination for fishing, boating, hunting and other recreation. Just as hiking trails are designed to help people explore the land, blueways help people discover rivers, and connect urban and rural communities with the outdoors. Blue trails provide a fun, exciting way to get kids outdoors, and are economic drivers that benefit local businesses and improve quality of life.
The water trails movement is growing rapidly and there are several great trails throughout the country. The Congaree River Blue Trail in South Carolina, designated a National Recreation Trail in 2008, connects urban communities in Columbia to Congaree National Park, the state’s only National Park. If you have not been there, go; it is truly one of our nation’s special places.
Speak up for water
Protection of America’s rivers and great waters is one crucial piece of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, benefiting fish and wildlife populations and creating new generations of river stewards. Leaders like Interior Secretary Ken Salazar understand the importance of rivers.
A national blueways or water trails program as part of AGO could provide funding and technical assistance for local communities interested in creating water trails. Because just about every community has access to a river or stream, the opportunities are endless and such a program would go a long way toward accomplishing the administration’s goals for AGO.
Visit www.nwf.org/greatoutdoors to read NWF's new report 'America's Great Outdoors: A Vision for Conserving the Nation's Wildlife in the 21st Century' (pdf).