Safeguarding the Nation’s Rivers Benefits People, Habitat, and Economies

Rivers and wetlands in the United States provide myriad benefits known as ecosystem services, including climate regulation, clean water, food, recreation, and economic, cultural, and scientific opportunities. But despite these advantages, federal and state authorities have formally protected very few of the 3.5 million miles of U.S. rivers. For instance, less than 0.5% of rivers are preserved as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System.

Additionally, more than 90,000 dams and diversion systems have altered the natural flow of rivers nationwide, degrading water quality, interrupting the distribution of sediments and nutrients, and harming fish populations and the communities that depend on them for their livelihoods or survival.

For more information on Pew’s work with partners across the country to secure river and wetlands protections, see the resources below.

River
River
White Paper

Oregon: The State of Western Rivers

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White Paper

Healthy rivers are crucial for supporting biodiversity and providing clean drinking water and recreational opportunities.

Nolichucky River
Nolichucky River
Article

5 Rivers Congress Should Safeguard Now

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Article

Free-flowing rivers are the lifeblood of wild landscapes, providing habitat and food to myriad species both in the water and on the surrounding land. Rivers also help drive local economies.

OUR WORK

Dam
Dam
Article

Dam Removal in Washington to Benefit Fish, Whales, and People

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Article

The Middle Fork Nooksack River originates on the southern slope of Mount Baker in northwestern Washington, flows northwest through the Cascade Range and the Mount Baker Wilderness, and joins with the Nooksack’s north and south forks before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon
Article

10-Year Plan to Conserve 30% of U.S. Lands and Waters

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Article

As government and conservation leaders worldwide work to significantly increase the protection and conservation of the planet over the next decade, national leaders must do their part at home as well.

Salmon
Salmon
Article

Restoring Salmon Migration Routes Would Carry Big Benefits

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Article

The annual salmon spawning run from the Pacific Ocean to the Northwest’s rivers and streams is a life-and-death struggle against obstacles both natural and manmade. Enough fish must succeed in order for the ecosystem—far upstream from the ocean—to stay healthy.