By: Katie Parsons
on Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Indiana’s famous Wabash River received national recognition today when it was named one of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers by the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.
The project identifies 11 rivers in southern and Midwestern states that need to be conserved in order to establish recreational opportunities and support the local economy.
The 11 rivers are part of 51 ongoing projects that affect each state and the District of Columbia. The Wabash River was chosen as an example on how communities can restore rivers and reconnect with the outdoors.
Salazar said that the partnership between the federal government and local communities is important to protecting the “lifeblood of communities” that rely on the rivers for economic growth and employment opportunities.
The Wabash River will be part of a program called the Healthy Rivers Initiative – the largest such initiative in Indiana. It will be carried out through a partnership between several agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The landowners along the 43,000 acres of floodplain will be educated to help protect fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation along the banks of the Wabash. The Wabash has long been known for containing Indiana’s widest variety of fish, plants, birds and mussels and contributes to many local communities in the Hoosier states.
Other rivers on the list include: The Pecatonica River in Illinois, Big Sioux River in Iowa, Cache River in Arkansas, Tensas River in Louisiana, Detroit River in Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers in Minnesota, Pascagoula River in Mississippi, Chagrin River in Ohio and the Milwaukee River in Wisconsin.
There are over 3.6 million miles of rivers and streams in the U.S. and almost every American lives within one mile of either a stream or river. The outdoor industry creates approximately 6.5 million jobs and creates $730 billion per year into the national economy.
Salazar revealed the America’s Great Outdoors Rivers in January as part of the larger initiative set forth by President Obama called America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The main goal of the program is to reconnect citizens, especially young people, with outdoor recreation opportunities.
The program also strives to enhance river recreation in order to boost jobs in tourism and outdoor activities.
The program has already established a National Water Trails System that will encourage water recreation in urban areas and promote outdoor activities in some of America’s most beautiful areas. A National Fish Habitat Plan has also been enacted to protect and restore waterways and fisheries.