Missouri River

Restoring the Missouri River

The Missouri is America's longest river; its basin spans 10 states. But human engineering has compromised its magnificent habitats and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. To promote positive change, the League launched its Missouri River Initiative (MRI) in 2007.

The League is working with federal and state agencies and private stakeholders to assess the environmental challenges facing the river and find solutions that work for the region’s ecology and economy. These solutions include restoring areas of  river wherever possible including backwater and side channel habitats, and increasing opportunities for recreation. Paul Lepisto, the League’s Regional Coordinator for the Missouri River Initiative said: “Activities, policies, and practices involving navigation, agriculture and energy development have altered river flow regimes impacting the well-being of the Missouri River. We want to protect and enhance a productive river environment for everyone—individuals, families, and businesses—in the region.  This will provide improved habitats for fish and wildlife, additional recreational opportunities and economic growth throughout the basin.”

Promoting recreational use of the Missouri is an excellent way to increase river stewardship.  The League has worked with colleagues and stakeholders to obtain a National Water Trail Network listing for stretches of the river.  One water trail runs from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD, to Sioux City, IA.  Another runs from Fort Randall Dam near Pickstown, SD to Lewis and Clark Lake.  These trails attract paddlers from across the country providing benefits to local economies.

Through its Missouri River Initiative, the League also helps to coordinate Missouri River clean ups in communities in the region including; Yankton, SD, Sioux City, IA, Omaha, NE-Council Bluffs, IA, and Pierre, SD.  Working with state and federal agencies and other groups the clean ups bring hundreds of volunteers to the Mighty Mo.  Through their efforts the river is healthier for fish and wildlife and more attractive to recreational users.

Educating people is a large component of the MRI.  The League plays a major role in organizing the annual Missouri River Watershed Education Festival.  The Festival draws hundreds of high school students to Yankton each year and they learn about the many issues facing the river and our natural resources.  The League also takes part in outdoor expos and events taking the opportunity to teach people about the needs of the river and resource conservation.

Education is the key to protecting the Missouri River from invasive species.  The League coordinates the annual Clean Boat Event near Gavins Point Dam teaching boaters and anglers how to prevent the spread of invasive species.  Asian carp and zebra mussels are in the river below Gavins Point Dam but have not spread to the Missouri River reservoirs.  People can prevent the spread of invasive species with three simple steps.  Clean, Drain, and Dry their equipment every time they come off the water.

Epic flooding along the Missouri River in 2011 caused billions in property damage and disrupted the lives of thousands of residents. Unfortunately, some in Congress are still trying to use this disaster to undermine long-standing efforts to restore fish and wildlife and critical habitat throughout the river basin. The League worked hard to blunt these efforts, and with the help of our members and other state, regional, and national organizations, we will continue to fight for funding for recovery and restoration efforts that will ensure a healthy, productive Missouri River for this and future generations.

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