Friends of the River identifies outstanding rivers in California and mobilizes positive citizen action to save them. F.O.R. works in collaboration with individuals, grassroots organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies to preserve, protect, and restore the ecosystems of these rivers as they flow within or through our state.
“OLD MAGIC” AND NEW COMMITMENTS
Flowing water exerts a powerful, magical pull on the human imagination. In symbolic language, rivers and streams represent the life force, consciousness, and creative energy. In literal terms, flowing water is a rich and complex ecosystem that supports millions of living creatures, from microscopic algae to tiny mayflies to fat salmon-and all the plants and animals that sustain them. From the clear, icy torrents of the High Sierra to the underground purling of the Los Angeles River, flowing water shapes our natural landscape and our inner lives.
Within the last hundred years, most of our natural river systems have been so dramatically altered that we are committed forever to their continuing management. Still, we can attempt to replicate natural systems as much as possible. The challenge of the next few decades is to develop and implement natural resource management approaches that will most closely replicate the old magic while still providing opportunities for intelligent, measured development.
Friends of the River works with individuals and organizations wherever there are rivers and streams-headwaters, foothills, valleys, and urban areas-to educate them about opportunities and challenges, and to help them preserve and protect California’s rivers as a fundamental source of health, wealth, and well-being. In short, to agree upon and implement strategies that can restore some of “the old magic.”
Our involvement began with the Stanislaus River campaign in 1974. More than two decades after that important battle, F.O.R. is quite literally at a watershed moment thanks to the convergence of three factors:
- California’s exploding population, projected to nearly double to 60 million by the year 2020, will place enormous pressure on all our natural resources-not only wild rivers but urban and rural creeks and streams as well.
- Emerging scientific data on the health of watersheds points to the need for new conservation approaches. Significant shifts in the state’s economic and political climate underscore that need.
- In recent years, new players have joined the river-conservation field-Pacific Rivers Council, Natural Heritage Institute, and River Network, among others.
All these factors point to the need for F.O.R to revisit our mission, re-establish our niche, and redefine our commitment.
Our strengths lie in the policies and science of river management, and the art of grassroots organizing on state and national levels. During the next three years, we intend to put these skills and experience to work on the local level to integrate local politics, science, and policy. In short, to move ecosystem management, in the context of viable local economies, beyond concept into reality.
We plan to implement this new strategy of local citizen action in a series of one-year operational plans. In 1998, we will revisit our commitment and adjust our strategy as needed.
RESOURCES FOR SUCCESS
Over the next three years, Friends of the River will implement our strategic plan with the following resources:
Our goals include building bioregional membership in watersheds where F.O.R. is supporting an ecosystem project; converting recreational river users into conservation advocates by working with commercial river outfitters and fly-fishing guides; exporting the successful San Francisco River Festival to the Los Angeles and Sacramento areas (piggybacking onto other events where possible); and increasing diversity among river users.
MARKETING AND MEDIA
We plan to create a compelling and consistent image and theme for all F.O.R public education and promotional materials; become a local and statewide resource for print and electronic media on river issues; use cost-effective marketing strategies such as cause-related marketing to develop a statewide constituency; and develop collaborative education campaigns with other community organizations.
A three-year marketing and fundraising plan will focus on six target markets: donors, foundations, river outfitters and guides, outdoor retailers and manufacturers, small businesses in communities with watershed projects, and larger businesses with socially responsible agendas.
Develop existing and initiate new profit-making projects which will generate dependable, market-based sources of business-related income. Examples include river trips, services to river outfitters (trip bookings, guide training), and educational products for the growing outdoor recreation market in California.
F.O.R seeks to attract and keep qualified staff, board members, and volunteers; improve the structure of the organization; and create a positive working environment where salaries and benefits are competitive with other conservation organizations. Our goals in this area include emphasizing diversity among board members; recruiting talented community members to serve on board committees; creating an Alumni Club made up of former staff and board members; and forming new volunteer chapters in watersheds with ecosystem projects.
BRINGING BACK THE MAGIC
Healthy rivers benefit all Californians in myriad ways. They enhance our economic well being by supporting recreation-based businesses and healthy fisheries, by minimizing flood control costs and municipal water clean-up, and-often-by increasing property values.
They enrich our social and personal lives through healthy outdoor exercise and challenging adventure, through the stress-reducing benefits of nature “time-outs,” and through the example of interdependent natural systems.
And they nourish our aesthetic and spiritual values by reminding us that all plants and animals belong in our circle of concern-and that “the old magic” still has the power to renew.
“When we destroy biodiversity,” said the noted ecologist Paul Ehrlich, “we’re sawing off the limb we’re sitting on.” F.O.R is committed to reversing the degradation of our once great rivers and to preserving the web of life that sustains us all. By supporting individuals and organizations in their local work, and by using an ecosystem approach to river protection and restoration, we hope to effect a fundamental shift in the river conservation movement. And we hope as well to make a significant contribution to the economic vitality and social well-being of our communities.