“What are the values of healthy natural river systems? How many of the following might be reasons to conserve your river?
~~ Perhaps most important, rivers are the habitat and life-corridors for wildlife, the matrix for biological diversity. River corridors that run from the mountains to the lowlands to the sea connect many ecosystems and populations. In contrast to an “island “ preserve dedicated to one species, a river corridor contains a rich and varied pool of interacting life forms.
~~ Rivers carry nutrients that sustain our wetlands, estuaries and ocean shallows, the beginning link tin the food chain. This function is severely impaired by dams, which bury nutrients under reservoirs.
~~ Rivers are a free delivery system for fresh waters to support human settlements, agriculture and industry, but only to the extent that we protect the quality of those waters.
~~ Rivers recharge the vast underground aquifers that our cities and farms depend upon.
~~ They are the home for fisheries, resident and anadromous, commercial, and sport that support many local economies. Dams and diversions and dredging have severely depleted those fisheries.
~~ Rivers provide the free capital of topsoil to floodplains, replenishing the fertility of our farmlands
~~ They absorb the energy of floods in their meanders and marshes and floodplains when allowed to flow freely.
~~ They provide free recreation that brings millions closer to nature through floating or fishing or swimming or hiking.
~~ Rivers provide easy access to wilderness for those who cannot carry a 40 pound pack.
~~ They provide our cities with greenways that are often the best chance for urban open space.
~~ Rivers have carved out the breathtaking beauty of canyons, valleys, waterfalls and cataracts—the glory of our continent.
Source: River Voices, Spring, 1995, The River Network
Phil Wallin also identifies eight key spiritual values which will be listed in a future post.