America’s Most Endangered Rivers: FAQs

What is the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report?
This is one of the best-known and longest-lived annual reports in the environmental movement – but it is much more than that. Every year, grassroots river partners team up with American Rivers to use this report to save their hometown rivers – consistently scoring policy successes that benefit rivers and the communities through which they flow. The report highlights ten rivers facing specific threats, it outlines solutions, and it encourages decisionmakers to make choices for the benefit of the rivers on the list. 

How does American Rivers determine which are the most endangered rivers?
American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, and others for the report. Our staff and panel of scientific advisors review the nominations for the following criteria:

  • The magnitude of the threat to the river;
  • A major decision point in the coming year affecting that threat;
  • The regional and national significance of the river.

What qualifies a river as “endangered”?
The rivers on the list are deemed endangered because their fate is uncertain but will be decided in the coming year. In order for a river to make the list, it must be seriously threatened and – through public awareness – it must be possible to save the river from the threat by persuading decisionmakers to do the right thing for the river, as well as the communities that depend upon a healthy river to provide drinking water, natural flood protection, recreation opportunities, and other benefits. (Typical “threats” include but are not limited to proposed development projects, mines or dams.)

Does “most endangered” mean the river is the most polluted?
No, the report is not a list of the most polluted rivers in the country. Rivers that are endangered could be in pristine condition or severely degraded. The key factor is that each of the endangered rivers is at a tipping point – we list them because their fate is likely to be decided in the coming year.

If a river is listed one year and not the next or perhaps never again, does that mean it is no longer endangered?
For some rivers, this is the case. However, while the report has helped to achieve positive outcomes for many rivers, many others that have been listed continue to face severe threats even though they are not currently or repeatedly featured in the report. There are several reasons a river might not make the list again:

  • It is our practice to feature different rivers each year, making consecutive or repeat listings unlikely
  • We list rivers that are at a crossroads – even though a particular river may be threatened, there may not be a major decision point in the coming year that will determine the fate of that river
  • Nominations come from the local grassroots river community, so if a river is not nominated then we most likely will not consider it for the report

How can a report protect a river?
The report does much more than merely describe problems facing rivers. Sure, it raises public awareness but it also highlights alternatives and solutions, identifies key decisionmakers who can make a positive difference, and offers opportunities for concerned citizens to take action on behalf of each listed river. For more than two decades, this report has led to many victories for rivers and communities across America. Read about some recent successes here.