What the Biden victory means for our rivers and clean water

American Rivers is ready to work with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their administration to repair the substantial damage to rivers and clean water.

One of my favorite quotes is from Leonardo da Vinci, “In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” Elections are like rivers, framed by what has happened in the past and full of possibility for the future.  This year’s election is no exception.

Now that it appears that Joe Biden is our President-elect, American Rivers is ready to work with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their administration to repair the substantial damage to rivers and clean water done by the Trump administration over the past four years and, going forward, make real progress in protecting and restoring rivers and conserving clean water.  We’ve identified five priorities for the Biden-Harris administration and Congress in our 2021 Blueprint for Action:

  1. Invest in rivers and clean water to recover from COVID-19
  2. Reverse regulatory rollbacks and restore strong, effective federal protection for rivers and clean water
  3. Improve protection and management of the nation’s floodplains
  4. Launch a national initiative to prioritize and fund dam removals
  5. Increase protection of Wild and Scenic rivers

While some of these priorities can be accomplished by the new administration itself, many will require congressional action.  Regardless of which party controls the Senate (and we may not know until January following runoff elections in Georgia), Congress will continue to be closely divided, making bipartisanship even more important.

The need for bipartisanship was amply demonstrated in this year’s election when voters on Colorado’s Western Slope voted overwhelmingly to pass ballot measure 7A, raising property taxes to provide nearly $5 million annually for protecting water supplies for farmers and ranchers, drinking water for Western Slope communities, and rivers for fish, wildlife, and recreation.  American Rivers joined with a bipartisan group of stakeholders to lead the campaign for 7A.  As Colorado River District general manager Andy Mueller said in The Aspen Times, the results prove that water “was the one issue that’s not partisan, that was about uniting a very politically diverse region. Everybody is so sick of the nasty, divisive, partisan politics. People with Trump signs and Biden signs voted for the same thing.”

Our slogan at American Rivers, Rivers Connect Us, is worth remembering as a newly elected President Biden and Congress tackle the nation’s pressing issues in the next four years.  While there is a Republican River that flows through Nebraska and Kansas, and a Democrat Creek in Colorado, support for rivers and clean water should not be a partisan issue.

For more information and how to help, please visit American Rivers.

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Bob Irvin has been President and CEO of American Rivers since July 2011. As President, Bob leads American Rivers in its mission to protect and restore our nation’s rivers. He is responsible for management of the strategic, programmatic, and financial operations of American Rivers. Bob is an expert in biodiversity conservation, wildlife law, and the Endangered Species Act. He has written and lectured extensively on biodiversity conservation issues. He is the co-editor, with Donald C. Baur, of the American Bar Association’s deskbook on the Endangered Species Act, ESA: Law, Policy, and Perspectives (2nd ed. 2011). He co-authored, with Michael J. Bean, the chapter on the Endangered Species Act and marine species in Ocean and Coastal Law and Policy (American Bar Association 2008). He was a member of the IUCN’s Red List Criteria Review Working Group which revised the standards for listing threatened species globally. He has taught Biodiversity Protection at Vermont Law School for nearly 20 years and has also taught at the University of Maryland School of Law.


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