Largest Gathering of Clean Water Advocates Converges on Pittsburgh
This year's River Rally, jointly produced by River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance, brought together nearly 700 clean water leaders from 40 U.S. states and 19 countries to the confluence of three great rivers in Pittsburgh, PA from May 30 to June 2. This annual event educated, empowered and inspired grassroots water advocates to go home and continue protecting their local waterways.
Thanks to Rich Wallin of W2 Films for providing this video recap of River Rally.
River Rally 2014 was the largest international gathering of clean water advocates in the world, with participants from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Senegal and the United Kingdom. More than 70 workshops and panels shared best practices for watershed restoration, stormwater management, water quality monitoring, water and energy conservation, green infrastructure, habitat restoration, safe drinking water and more.
His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa traveled from Nepal to give blessings to the worldwide river protection movement, while inspiring attendees with his story of trekking with 700 followers at 12,000 feet in the Himalayas on an annual trash removal pilgrimage. His Holiness is a young, charismatic teacher of the Drukpa school of Buddhism who understands the pressure of modern life and offers practical ways to calm and focus our minds.
While introducing His Holiness, Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance's executive director, shared one of the most poignant lessons His Holiness bestowed upon him during a visit to Nepal, which was the connection between how we treat ourselves and how we treat our planet. "As he likes to say, how can we respect ourselves if we don't respect our planet."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a rousing keynote speech on how damaging the environment is destroying our democracy in the U.S.
As Acting Assistant for Water leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in protecting the nation’s water resources and overseeing the EPA’s WaterSense consumer product labeling program, Nancy Stoner gave an insider’s overview of the current Waters of the U.S. rule-making process that will decide which streams, wetlands and waterways will be protected in the future.
The Tigris Riverkeeper screened a video made in May of a first-ever kayaking trip down the Tigris River in northern Iraq showing thousands of villagers gaining the information they needed to protect their water resources.
River Rally participants experienced an eye-opening report on the state of the growing environmental monitoring movement in China by Ma Jun, a director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. Ma Jun has helped expose more than 90,000 air and water violations by local and multi-national companies throughout China.
Water advocates participated in the KEEN River Cleanup along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Torqeedo showcased its electric motors during the cleanup and one of DJI's latest drones made an appearance, which is suitable for a diverse range of tasks including citizen science, surveillance and automated survey. In the past two years, small consumer drones have dramatically lowered the cost of high-quality aerial imaging, making this product a perfect fit for water advocates.
Other highlights included the Blue Wrap Fashion Show, and screenings of the documentary films Triple Divide and DamNation. Bridgestone, one of the events lead sponsors, presented River Network with a $25,000 gift in support of its ongoing work to protect and restore waterways throughout the U.S.
The annual River Heroes Awards Banquet celebrated five individuals who are empowering communities throughout the Tijuana River Watershed in Mexico, improving water quality in Maine’s Casco Bay, advocating for rivers in Kansas, giving back as a tireless volunteer river trail steward in Illinois and developing national showcases of urban renewal in Rhode Island.
Margarita Diaz has become the leading community advocate for water quality protection in the coastal community of Playas de Tijuana and throughout Baja California. Over the past 13 years she has mobilized more than 35,000 volunteers, fostering “awareness through action”; coordinated the removal of nearly 200 cubic tons of trash; trained more than 400 youth leaders as “coastal stewards”; and became a guiding citizen in coordinating efforts to protect not just the region’s beaches, but all streams, creeks and waterways in the Tijuana River Watershed.
Joe Payne is one of the first seven Waterkeepers—the Casco Baykeeper—and a founder of Waterkeeper Alliance. For more than 20 years, Payne has been the eyes, ears and voice of Casco Bay, working to protect the environmental health of Maine’s premier bay. He has built an impressive and sustainable operation with outstanding water quality monitoring programs and science-based advocacy, helping to get the bay declared a federally-designated “no discharge area.” Payne even led the campaign to relocate 35,000 lobsters to save them during dredging in the Portland harbor.
Laura Calwell has worked tirelessly for more than 20 years as both a volunteer and as Kansas Riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw to promote public awareness of the Kaw, an outstanding natural resource and valuable drinking water source in the state of Kansas. Each year she paddles the entire 170 mile Kansas River to check on its health and condition. Calwell has been instrumental in moving sand dredging operations out of the river, and led the effort to institute the Kansas River Inventory, the first comprehensive, publicly available inventory documenting the entire river system’s on-going conditions, structures, animal and plant life and recreational opportunities.
Michael Taylor is the Illinois Water Trailkeeper for the Little Calumet River that runs through the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs. As a volunteer trail steward and promoter of paddling, Taylor reaches thousands of people each year, getting them actively involved with cleanup and restoration projects, expanding water trail access and training volunteers. He is helping local high students learn how to kayak, and at a recent cleanup made sure every kid who attended had a canoe or kayak for the event—an opportunity most would never experience if it weren’t for Taylor’s tireless efforts. All of this happens when he is not at his regular full-time job.
Jane Sherman founded the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in 1998 to expand river revitalization initiatives to the entire river system and involve every community. Her vision and hard work have completely altered the quality of life in one of the most economically challenged communities in Rhode Island. Among many accomplishments, she led the charge to convert a 12-acre dilapidated textile mill complex into Riverside Park, now one of the most vibrant, active parks in the city, and helped leverage funding to create the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, a $12 million project that is a national showcase of urban renewal.
In addition, each year River Network celebrates one individual’s accomplishments with the James R. Compton River Achievement Award. This year’s honoree was Rebecca Wodder from Washington, DC. Wodder is a nationally known environmental leader who has devoted her career to conservation causes, beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970 and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (WI) on environmental and energy issues. Most recently she served at the U.S. Department of the Interior as senior advisor to Secretary Ken Salazar, advancing river and watershed objectives. Wodder was nominated by President Obama for the post of Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She previously served as president of American Rivers from 1995-2011.
“We couldn't be more impressed then we are by the important work these individuals and their organizations are doing to make a meaningful impact on water resources around the nation,” said Nicole Silk, River Network president. “Their dedication to—and love of rivers and water—is what inspires us all.”
YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE
Could mouthwash help stop the spread of the new coronavirus?
- How to Stop Touching Your Face to Minimize Spread of Coronavirus ... ›
- Vodka Won't Protect You From Coronavirus, and 4 Other Things to ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
- 41% of UK Species Have Declined Since 1970, Major Report Finds ... ›
- One in Eight Bird Species Threatened With Extinction, Study Finds ... ›
- Pesticides to Blame for UK's Declining Turtle Dove Population ... ›
We pet owners know how much you love your pooch. It's your best friend. It gives you pure happiness and comfort when you're together. But there are times that dogs can be very challenging, especially if they are suffering from a certain ailment. As a dog owner, all you want to do is ease whatever pain or discomfort your best friend is feeling.
Life-sized, ultra-realistic robotic dolphins could help end animal captivity by replacing living creatures in aquariums and theme parks.
- Keeping Large Mammals Captive Damages Their Brains - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Combine AI With Biology to Create Xenobots, the World's ... ›
- Singapore Uses 'Scary' Robot Dog to Enforce Social Distancing ... ›
By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.