Photo Credit: National Park Service

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Enjoying life along the Mississippi River is as much about land as it is about water.

Creating a healthier Mississippi River depends as much on finding common ground as it does about working with the flow of events.

Over two-thirds of people living in counties along the Mississippi River enjoy the river by walking, running or bicycling on a trail or visiting a park with family and friends. Half of us socialize at community events and festivals, or volunteer our time with cleanups, habitat restoration or other projects. As we have our feet firmly planted on the riverfront, we see that the waters rolling by provide a unique natural and historical setting that inspires a sense of pride in our community, state and nation.

Some of us get closer to the river by boating, canoeing and kayaking. Some watch birds and other wildlife, or go fishing, camping or hunting.

Photo Credit: Mark Rivers/Quapaw Canoe Company

Photo Credit: Mark Rivers/Quapaw Canoe Company

The landscape along the river directly affects our ability to enjoy the Mississippi for any of those activities.

Communities increasingly recognize the importance of embracing the river with trails, natural areas and parks along their riverfronts, making good use of flood-prone areas while keeping homes and businesses out of harm’s way and improving water quality and wildlife habitat. Beautiful vibrant riverfronts draw tourism dollars, help retain businesses and improve property values.

Towns and cities also know that they have to maintain and improve their water and sewer systems to protect the health of their own residents and their downstream neighbors.

Along the Mississippi River and its many tributaries, farmers who care about the future of their land know that keeping their soil healthy, preventing erosion and reducing polluted runoff benefits them and their downstream neighbors. Buffer strips, cover crops, reduced fertilizer use, edge-of-field wetlands, streambank restoration are among the suite of tools that can help make farmland productive in the face of more frequent droughts and severe weather, while protecting drinking water supplies and reducing other water quality problems cause by polluted agricultural runoff.

Photo Credit: NRCS

Photo Credit: NRCS

In some areas along the river, local, state and federal conservation agencies have created large parks and refuges that protect and restore the river’s natural floodplain and wetlands, serving as natural sponges and filters that safely hold and cleanse the water, while providing wildlife with homes and us with wild places to explore.

All of those ways to enjoy and improve the Mississippi River by taking better care of the land along it require finding common ground about water among many different people, groups and levels of government.

You’ve taken an important step, showing your support for creating a healthier Mississippi River, by becoming a 1Mississippi River Citizen. Having nearly 20,000 River Citizens attracts the attention of people who make decisions about the river.

Mayors of riverfront communities have taken notice, with many of them passing proclamations this past year supporting use of nature-based solutions to local flooding and water quality problems and moving homes and businesses out of frequently flooded areas, and recognizing the benefits of reconnecting and restoring natural floodplain wetlands. The non-profit groups associated with the 1Mississippi campaign, collectively called the Mississippi River Network, also have looked for ways to work with the mayors to find common ground about federal and state funding and programs that support a healthier river.

Knowing that River Citizens care about the Mississippi River also helps our Network of nonprofit conservation organizations when they talk with state and national decision-makers about issues facing the river. Many of you took action online to make sure that soil health programs for farmers continued to be a priority, reducing soil erosion and polluted agricultural runoff. Others have helped protect our smaller tributary streams and wetlands to protect drinking water supplies, improve other water quality and lessen flooding. Some have shown support for efforts to create and improve parks and trails, or preserve and restore wildlife refuges and habitat.

Thanks for taking the important first step of deciding to care about a healthier Mississippi River by pledging your support as a River Citizen. Please remember that you can get firmer footing on the issues facing the land and water along the River and what you can do to help by remaining engaged and using 1Mississippi’s website and social media campaign. We’ll also let you know about special issues as they arise and give you a chance to easily contact local, state and national decision-makers. And through our associated groups, we’ll give you chances to have fun, meet like-minded neighbors and contribute to your community through special events and projects.

The common ground that we all share is wanting to protect the natural and cultural landscape and heritage of the Mighty Mississippi.

Andy Kimmel

Policy Manager

Mississippi River Network


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