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Introduction

American Whitewater was founded on a single premise: that paddlers have a responsibility to protect wild rivers and the wildness inherent in all rivers. American Whitewater strongly believes that paddlers and other river users can be effective river advocates if they have the right tools to do so. No other community of people knows our nations whitewater rivers so well, or so completely surveys these resources each year. With this knowledge, and through the experiences we share with rivers, comes the desire and responsibility to speak for rivers and advocate for their protection. Rivers cannot vote, negotiate, litigate, write editorials, or file comments on their behalf – but paddlers and other river users can be the voice of rivers in all these forums.

American Whitewater's River Stewardship Toolkit is designed to educate and empower river users with the goal of increasing the overall positive effect that the recreation community has on the ecological integrity of river ecosystems and on the public's right to enjoy rivers. The Toolkit is meant to be a constantly evolving resource that American Whitewater staff and volunteers will continually update and improve. It will serve as the primary repository for our institutional knowledge, and the primary resource for our ever growing volunteer network. We hope too that these toolks will be used by agencies, electric utilities, the press, partner organizations, and other recreationists.

The Toolkit contains detailed information and advice on river access, hydropower licensing, public land management, environmental advocacy, legislation, and river safety as well as numerous case studies and links to regulatory information. The scope is intended to address the breadth of issues that river advocates will face and that American Whitewater has worked on for over 50 years. Specifically, the River Stewardship Toolkit (RST) will offer information on the following topics:

  • Regulated River Restoration: American Whitewater has worked on the restoration of ecological and recreational values on over 100 dam regulated rivers. Every privately owned dam in the country must receive a license every 30-50 years to operate, and we have focused a great deal of our efforts on using this relicensing process to restore rivers. The RST contains detailed information about how to effectively participate in a dam relicensing process, and also general information on the ecology of regulated river restoration.
  • Protecting Rivers Using State and Federal Regulations: There is a regulation protecting rivers from virtually every type of river impact. Paddlers have long sought to limit the negative impacts of logging, mining, dredging, and other potentially damaging activities on their favorite rivers. The RST will assist river users in making a strong case for river protection by using environmental regulations and ecological information.
  • Collaboration, Coalitions, and Negotiations: These skills form the base of all river stewardship endeavors. The RST contains advice from AW field staff developed over more than 25 combined years of actively advocating for rivers and recreationists.
  • Paddlers' Footprint: American Whitewater has long participated in river management issues and has developed a host of resources to educate paddlers on how be responsible river users. The RST offers specific advice for paddlers and other river users on how to minimize any ecological or social impacts they could have on the river environment while maximizing their positive effects.
  • River Access: American Whitewater is widely recognized for our expertise in river access issues. The RST contains detailed information regarding navigability, liability, and other legal issues relating to river access on a state by state basis. It also offers advice to paddlers dealing with river access closures or potential closures, and case studies of how access has been enhanced through collaborative efforts.
  • River Safety: River Safety is a core element of our mission and American Whitewater has been a respected source for river safety information for over half a century. The RST contains much of the institutional knowledge regarding safety that was developed over the years by our excellent volunteer safety committee as well as our staff.

We hope that our volunteers, members, and partner organizations find this information valuable. We also hope that its value translates directly to the restoration of both ecological and recreational values of our nations' rivers.