It’s National Rivers Month!

Photo of Hudson River from Creative Commons Flickr user Elizabeth Bean, http://www.flickr.com/photos/52975930@N00/112703530/
Margaret Byrne

Today you’re hearing from Margaret Byrne, a West Virginia native and an environmental health scientist involved in the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Credit: USFWS

In one of my earliest memories, I am fishing with my father just before dinner, and in the sunset above the Potomac River we see a triple rainbow emerge from the clouds. He reminded me then, and I still know now, that seeing something so beautiful happens once in a lifetime.

The shore of the Hudson River, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York. Photo from Creative Commons, Flickr user Randy OHC.
“Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Photo of Hudson River from Creative Commons, Flickr user Randy OHC)

I have never again seen three rainbows above the Potomac, but it has been my experience that rivers offer unending opportunities for beauty. These natural landscapes are a source of connection to nature. Wherever I live or visit I seek out the local river to forge a connection to that landscape.

The river stones I collect there, polished from years of being scraped along the river bottom, remind me that time reveals beauty and that change is an inherent part of life. National Rivers Month is a time to pause and appreciate the incredible beauty and natural resources found in the rivers of the Northeast region.

My work on the Hudson River has taught me about the incredibly diverse and important habitats found in this unique place. The Hudson River has been called “the river that flows in two directions” because the tides of the Atlantic Ocean push water back upstream twice a day. These tides help to create homes for many different kinds of plants and animals.

As the Hudson River makes its way from its source in the Adirondack Mountains, it provides habitat for hundreds of species of fish and birds as they breed, feed, raise their young, and seek shelter and rest.

A bottle I have on my desk, filled with water from the Hudson River, reminds me to protect the ecosystem from which it came.

A view of the Potomac River from Shepherdstown, W.Va. Credit: Angela Durkin

A view of the Potomac River from Shepherdstown, W.Va. Credit: Angela Durkin

Potomac River from James Rumsey Bridge in Shepherdstown, W.Va. From Creative Commons Flickr user thisisbossi
“A good river is nature’s life work in song.”
-Mark Helprin
(Photo of Potomac River from Creative Commons, Flickr user thisisbossi)

This month, I celebrate National Rivers Month with a solemn knowledge that the incredible ecological resources of the Hudson River have been extensively contaminated with chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

These toxic chemicals have been found in the water, fish and other wildlife, and sediment of the Hudson River below General Electric Company’s plants at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward in New York.

We know that PCBs can cause serious harm to wildlife and other natural resources and we are in the process of determining the scope of the injuries caused by this contamination. (Read my colleague’s blog post about studies on Hudson River mink and learn about the difference between the EPA’s Superfund cleanup and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process.)

As National Rivers Month comes to a close, I invite you to remember the beauty and inherent value of the natural resources of the rivers throughout the Northeast Region, and I encourage you to work with us and others, and do your part to protect these resources.

2 Comments on “It’s National Rivers Month!

  1. Pingback: NOAA Likes Rivers Too | NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Wisdom | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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