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Keeping an Eye on NEPA’s Rivers image
Conservation
December 12, 2023
Keeping an Eye on NEPA’s Rivers
Adam Schellhammer
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DiscoverNEPA is partnering with American Rivers, a national leader in protecting and restoring rivers throughout the United States. In this space, they’ll offer insight and tips on keeping our rivers clean and healthy as well as updates on the organization’s local efforts and initiatives taking place right here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Depends on Healthy Rivers

From Wilkes-Barre to the Poconos, rivers are Northeastern Pennsylvania’s lifeblood. Our history, environment, and communities are shaped by spectacular waterways like the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Lehigh. Then there are the harder-to-find spots like Buck Run, Appenzell Creek, Perch Run. The list goes on.

NEPA’s rivers are enormously important to the entire Mid-Atlantic region. Consider this: More than 17 million people, including residents of New York and Philadelphia, get their drinking water from the Delaware River alone. Regionally significant fish like the Eastern brook trout and iconic species like the bald eagle rely on our rivers’ clean, flowing water for their lifecycles. And, for many of us, NEPA’s rivers offer recreation and a way to connect to nature. Rivers are essential to our way of life.

Yet, like too many others around the country, NEPA’s rivers face unprecedented threats from pollution, dams, and increasing droughts and floods that destroy the river habitat wildlife need to nest, feed, and reproduce. These threats harm our health, too, putting clean drinking water at risk. Without rivers, there’s no water, no wildlife, no life.

 

A view of the Susquehanna River from Nesbitt Park in Kingston.

 

We all live downstream

I grew up surrounded by the dichotomy of Pennsylvania waterways. Pristine, hemlock-laden trout streams existed within a mile of neon-orange creeks, whose waters were left devoid of life from legacy issues like acid-mine drainage. The rapid pace of development in Pennsylvania also poses a significant threat to its waterways, jeopardizing the delicate ecological balance and water quality. Increased urbanization contributes to habitat destruction and the alteration of natural water flow patterns, placing the state’s valuable aquatic ecosystems at risk. Those streams are the reason why I decided to dedicate myself to safeguarding and improving our precious waters. And they are why I am proud to work for American Rivers — the only national organization dedicated entirely to protecting and restoring the rivers all life depends on.

With a half-century of experience addressing river threats from coast-to-coast, American Rivers has protected more rivers and removed more dams than any other organization. Alongside local partners, we have made important strides for healthy rivers, including those throughout Pennsylvania. Now, as the threats intensify, we are championing a movement to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways.

 

Making a difference for our treasured waters

In NEPA, American Rivers safeguards healthy rivers by working shoulder to shoulder with local partners to protect our healthiest, most scenic rivers. We are also helping communities that are experiencing more frequent and damaging floods to protect rivers in ways that improve local resilience to the impacts of climate change. Our work together can safeguard our communities, preserve life-sustaining water sources, and demonstrate our shared commitment to fostering recreation, joy, and the well-being that makes Northeastern Pennsylvania a wonderful place to live and visit.

We are also restoring damaged rivers by removing dams to increase fish and wildlife access to habitat, eliminating safety hazards for local communities, and ensuring more thriving free-flowing rivers that can provide refuge from a changing climate.

And finally, we are galvanizing a powerful, diverse, bipartisan river movement to drive change that makes rivers healthier and water cleaner. We won’t stop until every river in NEPA and beyond has multitudes of champions speaking up for it.

 

What comes next

Over the coming months, American Rivers and DiscoverNEPA will share with you some of the incredible work happening to protect and restore NEPA’s incredible rivers. I have had the great privilege of spending most of my life exploring and enjoying all that Pennsylvania’s waterways have to offer, and through that time I have witnessed what the resilient and determined communities of the state can achieve. There’s no challenge too great to overcome; streams and landscapes that once bore the deep scars of industry have been restored and now teem with life. It is through dedication and strong partnerships that we can continue to revive the health of our precious waterways and build a brighter future, where everyone has access to the rivers, streams, creeks, cricks, runs, and seeps that make this area so special!

 

 

About American Rivers

American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on Rivers. Sign up to receive timely updates about the rivers that you love.

 

Featured image (top) a panoramic view of the Delaware River.