Impact Report 2020

Everywhere for Everyone

Bob Irvin, President and CEO, and John Haydock, Chair of the Board of Directors
John Haydock, Chair of the Board of Directors (left) and Bob Irvin, President and CEO (right)
Photo: Amy Kober

All of us will look back on 2020 with a mixture of grief and gratitude. Grief over the unthinkable number of people who lost their lives, livelihoods and health to the COVID-19 pandemic. And gratitude to all of those who stepped up in the face of historic challenges to care for the sick, provide needed frontline services, confront longstanding injustices and racism, strengthen our communities and speak unreservedly for the values that connect us.

Through it all, rivers have been essential lifelines, providing the clean water we all need to survive, to wash our hands, to heal. So, when we reflect on this year, we are proud that American Rivers fought boldly for healthy rivers and clean water — everywhere, for everyone.

American Rivers made enormous leaps in 2020. We launched a new five-year strategic plan that places equity and justice front and center. We reconfirmed our commitment to exponentially freeing more rivers across the country from dams and harmful development. And we stood steadfast in defense of bedrock environmental laws — and the benefits they provide to people, wildlife and rivers.

Through your own uncertainty and hardship, you stood by us, recognizing that this work goes beyond saving a hometown river or restoring a mountain meadow. You embraced an enduring vision for our collective future. Thank you for your confidence and loyalty.

Healthy rivers and clean water — everywhere, for everyone.

These eight simple words are a mantra that guides everything American Rivers achieves and will undertake in the future. While these are unsettled times, with your support, we remain unwavering in our determination to fight for healthy rivers and clean water everywhere, for everyone.

For the rivers,

Bob Irvin
President and CEO
John Haydock
Chair of the Board of Directors
Backpacker looking down at waterfall

Your Voice For Rivers

Who gets to have clean water? Who benefits from infrastructure investments? Who is able to enjoy wild rivers and the outdoors? Who receives opportunities for good jobs? With your support, American Rivers was an outspoken leader on the connection of rivers to equity, economic well-being and public safety and health.

Justice and Equity

Black, Indigenous and Latino communities disproportionately lack access to clean water and to the very places we fight to protect. American Rivers’ newly released Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan outlines a vision for fulfilling our role in dismantling longstanding environmental injustices that stand in the way of progress.


Every $1 million invested in restoring watersheds generates 16 jobs and up to $2.5 million for the economy. We urged Congress to invest $500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years, including $50 billion to address water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19.

National spotlight

With more than 2,400 news stories — a 166 percent increase over 2019 — we brought river issues to the forefront. Our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2020 report put public pressure on decision-makers to act immediately on the colliding disasters of coronavirus and flooding.
Photo: Russ Schnitzer

2020 Highlights

View of a winding river from far above

You Protected
Healthy Ecosystems

In a major victory for one of the Southwest’s last major free-flowing rivers and America’s Most Endangered River® of 2019, New Mexico blocked a proposed diversion dam on the Gila River that threatened Indigenous cultural sites and native Gila trout. We also helped secure introduction of legislation to permanently protect 450 miles of the river as Wild and Scenic. Our legacy is ensuring rivers like the Gila thrive forever.
Dams Removed
River Miles Protected
Miles of River Habitat Open to Fish and Wildlife Thanks to Dam Removal
View of a winding river from far above

You Supported
Thriving Communities

An unprecedented project at the headwaters of Intrenchment Creek in Atlanta will help keep 750,000 gallons of floodwater out of streets and homes in the nearby historically Black neighborhoods of Summerville and Peoplestown. We are working across the nation, from Georgia to Arizona to Ohio, to help families, neighborhoods and cities manage water wisely.
local people trained or educated about urban water infrastructure
volunteers mobilized through National River Cleanup®
pounds of trash removed from waterways through National River Cleanup®
View of a winding river from far above

You Defended
Clean Water

The health of our nation begins with clean water for all. In response to the pandemic, we called on Congress to ban water shut offs, restore water service to people unable to pay their bills, and address the rising cost of water by increasing federal investment in aging infrastructure.
Lawsuits Filed to Stop Environmental Rollbacks and Prevent Harmful Development
States Where We Protected and Restored Rivers and Improved Water Sources
Priority Pieces of Legislation Introduced or Enacted

Your Impact Everywhere

River with lily pads
Photo: Gouldsboro State Park, Pennsylvania, Nicholas A. Tonelli

Defended against the Dirty Water Rule

American Rivers and our partners took legal action to stop the Trump administration’s Dirty Water Rule, which would strip protection from more than half of the nation’s wetlands and 1 in 5 streams.
Smith River in Montana
Photo: Ryan Cruz

Pristine streams in Montana protected

We worked with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana to protect 45 streams, 361 stream miles and more than 115,000 acres of wildlife-rich riverside lands.
Trees Reflecting on Delaware River

2020 River of the Year: Delaware

Seventy-five years ago, the Delaware River was choked with pollution and slated to be carved up by dams. Today, the river is thriving. We celebrated communities’ success in saving one of the East’s most important waterways.
Wildflowers growing beside irrigation stream
Photo: Amy Merrill

California’s urban streams restored

We worked to undo decades of damage to urban streams near the Bay Area by re-creating natural habitat for native plants, fish and wildlife and creating shady, beautiful spaces for nearby residents and visitors.
Light shining down through a school of fish
Photo: Chek Wingo

Fish returned to Maine river

On a single day in June, 3,844 shad — more than the entire 2019 run — were counted in the Penobscot River, where, in 2013, American Rivers joined forces with the Penobscot Tribe and other conservation partners to remove two dams.
Juvenile Yosemite Toad

Sierra Nevada habitat improved in California

We improved wet meadow in the upper Walker River watershed to improve critical breeding habitat for federally endangered Yosemite toads.
Water falling into cupped hands
Photo: MRJN Photography

Partnered on the frontlines

We helped local partners in Milwaukee, Detroit and Toledo get clean water to people who had had their taps shut off during the COVID-19 crisis.
Susquehanna River dam removal
Photo: Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

Pennsylvania river habitat improved

By removing three dams from the Susquehanna River’s tributaries, we successfully reconnected 63 miles of aquatic habitat and are advocating for efforts to return eel and eastern elliptio mussels to this portion of their historic range.
River with island through plains
Photo: Josh Duplechain

Partnered with ranchers to save rivers

Working alongside ranchers and farmers along the Upper Colorado River, we designed a groundbreaking initiative to compensate water users who reduce their irrigation and leave more water in the river for fish and wildlife.
River with lily pads
Photo: Bryan Werner

Stood with Midwest communities

Together with partners, American Rivers filed a federal lawsuit demanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers file updated environmental impact statements for riverside construction along the Upper Mississippi River — America’s Most Endangered River of 2020®.
Montana River
Photo: Pay Clayton

Fought for Montana’s Smith River

Working with national and local partners, we filed suit in federal court to challenge a permit for a copper mine along Sheep Creek — a key tributary to the famed Smith River.
Green Constructionat John Ball Zoo
Photo: John Ball Zoo

Green infrastructure practices expanded in Michigan

American Rivers has worked to help Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids implement techniques that reuse water and improve water quality in the nearby Grand River.
South Carolina Wildlife Refuge
Photo: Mac Stone

South Carolina wildlife refuge expanded

Growing the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge by 6,638 acres protects critical riverside habitat that will help local wildlife withstand the effects of climate change and support clean drinking water for 400,000 people.
Looking down on the Virginia River
Photo: Harlow Chandler

Virginia river saved from fracking

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill banning fracking along the Rappahannock, which we listed among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017.
Green-Duwamish River winding through the forest
Photo: Google Earth

Enacted solutions for people and salmon

In a direct response to naming the Green-Duwamish one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2019, the King County Flood Control District will fund two projects to improve salmon habitat and reduce flood risk in communities.
Removing the Middle Fork Nookack Dam
Photo: Brett Baunton, Wild Nooksack

Linchpin dam removed in Washington

Our partnership with the Nooksack Indian Tribe, Lummi Nation, city of Bellingham, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund and others culminated in the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam, which opened up 16 miles of habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

Your Support

In fiscal year 2020, the generosity of 22,947 donors added up to more than $14.4 million in financial support to American Rivers. You’re making it possible for American Rivers to fight for clean water and healthy rivers everywhere, for everyone.
2020 Revenue*
  • 28% Individuals
  • 44% Foundation Grants
  • 5% Corporations
  • 18% Government
  • 5% Other
2020 Expenses*
  • 73% Program Services
  • 17% Fundraising
  • 10% Management and General
*July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020
We appreciate the generosity of the individuals, corporations, trusts and foundations who donated their time, expertise and financial support between July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020.