Blueways a Blueprint for Healthy Rivers

the beautiful Connecticut River


River activists and recreationists  in Minnesota have their fingers crossed.  They are hoping that the Minnesota River will become the third river to win the designation of National Blueway.

If the 332-mile long river that empties into the Mississippi meets criteria set by the U.S. Department of the Interior, it will join the Connecticut River and the White River as National Blueways.

Launched a year ago, the National Blueway System recognizes and supports exemplary river system stewardship and is meant to serve as a blueprint for communities in managing river systems for conservation, education, recreation, and economic opportunities.

Unlike a ‘wild and scenic river’ designation that typically applies to a section of river and a narrow riparian corridor, a National Blueway is a whole river, from source to mouth, and includes a river’s entire watershed.  

The National Blueway System is part of America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, President Obama’s  effort to create a community-driven conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century.  National Blueways are recognized for integrating water and land management to promote resilient river systems that benefit human and natural communities.  

The first National Blueway, the Connecticut River, was announced in May 2012.  New England’s largest and longest river, the Connecticut begins at the New Hampshire-Canada border and flows south through the heart of New England, emptying into Long Island Sound.  The Connecticut River’s 7.2 million acre watershed stretches through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

The Connecticut River’s excellent stewardship is the result of efforts by more than 40 entities:  state agencies; the Connecticut River Watershed Council;  Audubon Connecticut; and numerous other organizations.

The second National Blueway to be established, the White River, was named in January.  With its source in Arkansas’s Ozark Mountains, the 722-mile river flows through the states of Arkansas and Missouri and through two national forests to empty into the Mississippi River.  

“The resources made available through this designation,” says Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, “will support and promote needed conservation efforts and bolster valuable economic growth and job creation in years to come.”  

A National Blueway designation offers many benefits.  For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaging in dozens of projects aimed at improving habitat in the White River watershed, including removing non-native invasive plants, and increasing outdoor recreational opportunities and access.

The National Blueway System is exciting, and I hope it expands significantly.  With more than three million miles of rivers and streams flowing through our country, most Americans live within a half-mile of a river or stream.   When nearby waterways are healthy, individuals can  enjoy opportunities for recreation and learning.  And entire communities benefit from economic opportunities provided by healthy waterways.–April Moore 




One Response to “Blueways a Blueprint for Healthy Rivers”

  1. Judy Muller Says:

    April, I enjoyed this so much, as I grew up in a town on the Connecticut River, and once took a canoe trip down the river. But I have to question your statement that most Americans live within a half-mile of a river or stream. Certainly not out here in Arizona and New Mexico, but even in that town in Connecticut, few of us lived that close to the river.

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