Join the Illinois RiverWatch Network
Rivers and streams are among the most vulnerable of the state's natural resources. The continuous growth of urban, commercial, and agricultural development has had a significant impact on the condition of the state's waterways. In a recent report to the United States Congress, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency estimated that of the miles of rivers and streams currently monitored in Illinois, 57 percent were rated as substandard or threatened.
Established in April 1993 under an initiative of Lieutenant Governor Bob Kustra, the Illinois RiverWatch Network is a partnership among Illinois citizens to monitor, restore and protect the state's rivers and streams. Part of the Americorps National Service Network, the Illinois RiverWatch Network meets a number of environmental protection and education needs. As Citizen Scientists, RiverWatch volunteers conduct stream habitat assessments and assist in the sampling and identification of aquatic macro-invertebrates. Data collected by Citizen Scientists is posted to an electronic bulletin board and used by the scientific community to gauge long-term trends in the environment. This approach—to "bring home" the impact of individual and community actions on a particular river or stream—instills a sense of pride and purpose in Americorps members and Citizen Scientists alike.
Key aspects of the program include: outreach to existing community groups, businesses, and schools; environmental education for members of the general public (adults and children); and community action in local river issues, including stream cleanup, habitat assessment and biological monitoring. Through Americorps, the Illinois RiverWatch Network will foster the establishment of a statewide partnership which will unify the actions of existing and newly formed volunteer organizations working to get things done for Illinois' valuable rivers and streams.
Preserving rivers and streams has become a high priority environmental issue. Illinois has 32,190 miles of rivers and streams, and less than one-half are being monitored for the extent to which they meet their designated use. The Illinois RiverWatch Network will significantly increase the number of stream miles being monitored in Illinois and will encourage more active citizen involvement in local land use practices and stream protection.
We need your help. The state regulatory and natural resource agencies cannot be in all places at all times. They need your minds, eyes, ears, and hands to help protect Illinois' streams. Volunteers who are interested in the well-being of our streams and rivers are an excellent and cost efficient means of obtaining information about the quality and health of our waterways.
Individuals interested in joining the Illinois RiverWatch Network, or arranging a local presentation or monitoring demonstration can contact:
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The following organizations are participants in the Illinois RiverWatch steering committee; Office of Lieutenant Governor, Governor's Science Advisory Council, Friends of the Chicago River, Friends of the Rock River, Heartland Water Resources Council, Association of Illinois' Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Rivers Project, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy-Illinois Chapter, Trout Unlimited-Illinois Chapter, USDA Soil Conservation Service, United States Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Phish and Wildlife Service, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service, West Branch DuPage River Project, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Rebecca Jenkins is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Springfield and an environmental studies intern with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Illinois Parks & Recreation • July/August 1995 • 33
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator