The State of Western Rivers: Washington

A deep dive into the health and future of vital waterways

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The State of Western Rivers: Washington
A new study finds that Icicle Creek, which supports a variety of numerous fish species including bulltrout, steelhead, chinook, and cutthroat trout, is one of among several of Washington’s waterways that new research shows merit protection.
A new study finds that Icicle Creek, which supports numerous fish species including bull trout, steelhead, chinook, and cutthroat trout, is among several Washington waterways that new research shows merit protection.
Mark Smith Flickr Creative Commons

Healthy rivers are crucial for supporting biodiversity and providing clean drinking water and recreational opportunities. Yet in Washington and across the West, rivers are under increasing threat as the climate warms, placing greater stress and demand on freshwater resources. Despite their immense value to people, wildlife, and ecosystems, few rivers and streams are safeguarded under federal or state law.

To support greater awareness of and protection for ecologically important rivers, The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned Conservation Science Partners to assess the rivers in six Western states: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. The Washington analysis found that tens of thousands of miles of waterways, including the White Salmon, Stehekin, and Cispus rivers and Icicle Creek, are worthy of preservation through state-level protections, federal wild and scenic designations, or other mechanisms because of their ecological, economic, and cultural importance.

The Little Cimarron River
The Little Cimarron River
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More U.S. Rivers Deserve 'Outstanding' Designation

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In many American communities, rivers irrigate the farms that feed families, quench people’s thirst—rivers are the source of more than two-thirds of the drinking water in the U.S.—sustain wildlife habitat, and provide an economic boost for communities. Yet only a very small portion of those waterways are protected from threats ranging from pollution to damming, which would wreck the water’s natural flow.

Wild Olympics
Wild Olympics
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Five Reasons to Protect Washington’s Wild Olympics

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The northwest corner of Washington state is renowned for its free-flowing rivers, ancient rainforests, and stunning scenery—attributes that extend well beyond Olympic National Park. Now Congress has a chance to give the nation’s highest level of conservation status to more of this area.

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California’s Region 1 Water Quality Control Board initiated an analysis of the Smith River (above) as an ONRW but has not completed the effort. This river, a pacific salmon stronghold, is worthy of the designation.
California’s Region 1 Water Quality Control Board initiated an analysis of the Smith River (above) as an ONRW but has not completed the effort. This river, a pacific salmon stronghold, is worthy of the designation.

A Deep Dive Into America's Rivers

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Clean, free-flowing rivers and their associated tributaries and wetlands support diverse, complex, and dynamic ecosystems that deliver myriad important benefits to people, nature, and the economy.

Rogue River, Oregon
Rogue River, Oregon
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How Much Do You Know About U.S. Rivers?

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They benefit people, wildlife, ecosystems, and economies—but many face serious threats.

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Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

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How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

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What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

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