River Rally 2014: American Rivers Joined Global Water Leaders In Pittsburgh.


Charles Slate

River Rally is a meeting of river leaders including federal and state resource agency representatives, national and regional environmental non-profits and MANY watershed groups. River Network organizes the annual event each year. This year the Waterkeeper Alliance joined forces to host the event in Pittsburgh, adding an international flair.

Keynote speakers included:

  • Pittsbugh’s Mayor Peduto, who is championing green infrastructure to address the city’s plan to eliminate sewer overflows.
  • Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun, who described the overwhelming environmental neglect and degradation in China and the challenges of advocates in the nation.
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, who spoke powerfully about the importance of the work that grassroots groups do and must do to ensure corporate interests don’t override the clean-up and protection of our rivers everywhere.
  • His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, a Buddhist leader raising awareness for clean water and healthy rivers in the Himalayans – the mountain ranges that are sources for some of the world’s largest rivers and greatest population centers. His Holiness described a challenging mountain trek with 700 followers to remove trash from the deep river gorges. At Rally he articulated the need to keep clean the Himalayan rivers because they of their headwaters connections to population centers far downstream.

The keynote speakers inspired River Rally attendees. Three full days of other presentations helped provide tools and insights into policies and practices that attendees could leverage in their daily work on behalf of local waterways. American Rivers was joined by Downstream Strategies to provide the basics on regulation to control urban stormwater and to inspire grassroots groups to work for strong stormwater controls.

In addition to inspiration and education, River Rally attendees also get to unwind and celebrate. I’ll only hint at the unwinding activities—a rendition of the “I am a Wild Salmon” dance and song complete with accompaniment on spoons, pogo stick hopping from the young citing river poetry and business-suited clean water leaders (rehearsing here) and a song for the Yangtze by a coalition of Chinese advocates.

Rally organizers recognize the need to celebrate, congratulate and praise the work we do for healthy rivers every day. Rally closes with a River Heroes Banquet to honor our peers. This year grassroots leaders from Maine, Rhode Island, Illinois, Kansas and British Columbia were praised. And, the James R. Compton lifetime award for River Achievement honored the work of American Rivers’ former president (1995-2011,) Rebecca Wodder. In addition to her leadership at American Rivers, Rebeca also worked at The Wilderness Society and U.S. Department of Interior as Senior Advisor to Secretary Ken Salazar. She is currently a Fellow with the Center for Humans and Nature.