We’ve long used water as though it’s an infinite resource, and that has compromised the West’s most majestic rivers. Some have been transformed beyond recognition, reduced to mere plumbing systems by dams and reservoirs. Pollution, cattle grazing, and development have left their mark, too. River ecosystems have collapsed, driving an alarming wave of extinctions.
The Center works to protect and restore western rivers — those ribbons of life that slake the thirst of America’s most arid lands — as well as the native fish and wildlife that make their homes in and around them. We work on highly stressed river systems in the Southwest from Arizona to California, as well as on rivers and river-dependent species in the Northwest and Southeast. Our Rivers and Watersheds campaign has preserved 19 salmon and steelhead trout species through ongoing efforts to protect more than 20,000 stream miles from southern California to Puget Sound and inland to Idaho, and we’ve enforced the Wild and Scenic River Act to protect nearly 1,000 river miles in New Mexico and California.
Along with allies, the Center brought about the decommissioning of century-old power plants to restore Arizona’s Fossil Creek; persuaded the Army to consult with federal wildlife scientists on use of groundwater that feeds Arizona’s San Pedro River — an about-face that could keep this world-renowned biodiversity hotspot vibrant — and halted channel relocation of the Virgin River that would have rung a death toll for imperiled species like the southwestern willow flycatcher, Virgin River chub, and Yuma clapper rail. We have strengthened oversight for the impacts of Glen Canyon Dam operations on endangered native fish in the Colorado River and successfully altered operations at Montana’s Libby Dam to protect the Kootenai River white sturgeon. And in 2007 our campaign to save the Verde won our rivers conservation manager a Verde River Civic Award.