of rivers and streamside habitats has been a priority for the Center
for Biological Diversity since its founding. We work to improve
and restore rivers throughout the West and to ensure the survival
of imperiled river-dependent species.
Freshwater is the difference
between life and death for all animals, including humans. And the
vast majority of American freshwater sources have been transformed
beyond recognition by dam construction, pollution, cattle grazing,
development, and water diversions. The country's wildest and most
majestic free-flowing rivers and streams have been ruthlessly converted
to massive plumbing systems, choked by dams and reservoirs. River
ecosystems have collapsed, driving numberless species extinct.
But a few undammed and
beautiful wild rivers remain, and the Center is working to protect
them-as well as to restore major compromised rivers throughout the
western states. We have two far-reaching and ambitious campaigns
to improve the condition of rivers and streamsides across the country
and increase their capacity to support life: the Wild and Scenic
Rivers Program and the Western Trout Campaign.
AND RIVER DESTRUCTION
The United States is a nation of dams.
More than 60,000 major dams have been constructed here
in the last century, strangling nearly all of our greatest
rivers and reducing many of them-including the Colorado,
Mississippi, Columbia, and Tennessee-to little more
than a series of reservoirs. The few rivers and streams
that still flow free are often severely degraded by
livestock grazing, energy development, logging, and
mining. Although efforts to decommission dams now outnumber
those to build them, our remnant free-flowing rivers
and streams will not be truly safe from dam proposals
and other threats unless they are given permanent protection.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides for this protection.
THE CENTER'S WATERSHEDS
Our Wild and Scenic
Rivers Program harnesses the potential of the Wild and Scenic Rivers
Act-a powerful and largely neglected law-to restore and protect
rivers across the country by keeping them safe from dams, water
diversions, logging damage and other forms of harm. The program
has compelled national forests in New Mexico to protect more than
500 river miles, and the Center is rapidly expanding its advocacy
for wild and scenic rivers into other southwestern states as well
as the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest.
WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT
Preserving our remaining free-flowing rivers is essential
to the preservation of wildlife, especially native fish
and other endangered species in the arid West. But the
situation is desperate: three-quarters of Arizona's
34 species of native fish are now in danger of extinction.
Across the West, every species of trout has suffered
considerable population declines and most occupy less
than 10% of their historical range; dams have played
a large role in declines for nearly all of these species.
Protecting rivers from further dams and habitat destruction
will be essential to preventing these species' extinction.
in 1968, the Wild and Scenic Act is the nation's most
sweeping river protection law, absolutely prohibiting
dam construction and requiring protection of river habitat
from other threats such as rampant livestock grazing,
logging, and construction of power lines once a river
is legally designated "wild and scenic." Since
its passage, nearly 11,000 miles of river on 158 river
segments have been so designated. These rivers have
been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, California,
and Alaska, leaving the Southwest, Midwest, Rocky Mountains
and other regions with very few wild and scenic designations.
The Center is working to redress this imbalance and
get more rivers in these places protected.
Our Western Trout Campaign,
launched with Pacific Rivers and Trout Unlimited, is the first-ever
initiative aimed at protecting all endangered trout species across
the West. The Campaign has produced a comprehensive report on the
status of native trout populations, and a slew of Center actions
that have resulted in improved management of native trout streams,
trout reintroductions, and protected status for high-risk populations.
The Center's broader
advocacy program for river-dependent species, including the California
red-legged frog, Arroyo Southwestern toad, and Arkansas River shiner,
has yielded millions of acres and thousands of river miles of habitat
protection over the past three years. In response to legal action
by the Center and our allies, 2,200 stream miles in California and
southern Oregon were protected as critical habitat for the coho
salmon, now extinct in much of its range due to overfishing and
habitat destruction. In the Gila River basin in New Mexico and Arizona,
our work has removed cattle from 350 miles of fragile streamsides
and propelled the protection of 900 river miles of habitat. Regrowth
of vegetation since the removal of livestock has transformed a barren
moonscape into a lush, living forest-and-stream wilderness.
After years of grassroots
activity, legal notices and intense negotiations, the Center and
our coalition partners, including the Yavapai-Apache Nation, brought
about the decision to remove of several diversion dams and closure
of an environmentally destructive power plant at Fossil Creek in
central Arizona, the best native fish restoration area in the state.
The creek had been dammed for more than 90 years, leaving its entire
14-mile length dry and the surrounding ecosystem devastated. Under
the terms of the coalition's agreement, the power plant will be
decommissioned by 2004 and this extraordinary wild place restored
by 2009. For more information on the Center's work on specific rivers,
click on the list below.
ON CAUSES AND SOLUTION TO ARIZONA’S
DYING RIVER AVAILABLE
Tucson Center staffer Sonya
Diehn has recently completed an independent video
entitled Oasis Under Siege: A
Journey Through the Dying River, exploring the causes
and consequences of disappearing water in the southwest.
Featuring Robin Silver, Conservation Chair for the
Center for Biological Diversity, Oasis Under Siege
highlights the Center's challenge to Arizona water
law, which has failed to protect imperiled desert riparian
areas -- ninety-five percent of which have already
vanished -- from excessive groundwater pumping. Weaving
together personal narrative, interviews with experts,
and the story of a couple living on the Cañada
del Oro Northwest of Tucson, Oasis Under Siege is not
only testimony to the significance of water in the
desert, but also an urgent call for the reform of water
law in Arizona.
For the remainder of 2003, Sonya will be distributing
copies and scheduling screenings throughout Arizona.
Contact her email@example.com if you are
interested in purchasing a copy or hosting a showing
in your community. The video is also available for
ordering and viewing in streaming format at www.oasis.panleft.org.