River systems are a vital natural resource that provides water needed to sustain ecosystems and communities, and American Rivers is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that works to ensure these life-giving waterways remain clean and healthy now and for future generations.

American Rivers was founded in 1973 and since that time it has made great strides in restoring and protecting the country’s rivers. Some of its most impressive successes include negotiating the world’s largest dam removal on the Klamath River, securing legal protection for more than 1,000 miles of U.S. rivers and spearheading efforts to extend the Clean Water Act’s protections to wetlands and water streams.

It continues its mission in every corner of the country with regional offices, a firm presence in Washington, D.C. and a network of 65,000 volunteers. The organization’s Action Alerts help to focus public awareness in the field while its legal experts engage threats to the nation’s waterways in the halls of justice.

A recent battle pitted American Rivers against policymakers who submitted and supported a Biological Opinion (BO) that would endanger salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The organization emerged victorious when a federal judge ruled the BO illegal and ordered it rewritten to comply with the Endangered Species Act.

American Rivers’ legal pursuits and scientific work help to shape policy affecting rivers, and its commitment to networking ensures a solid and growing work and finance support structure, but it is the group’s volunteers that define its formidable national presence.

The organization is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its National River Cleanup program, which has to date resulted in the cleanup of more than 10 million pounds of trash from the nation’s river systems through the hard work and dedication of more than 960,000 volunteers.

American Rivers is calling 2011 “the year of the river” in honor of its historic river restorations, which are marked this year by an organizational milestone of the removal of 1,000 dams known to cause harm to communities and the environment.